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Next-day election counts 'will ruin TV tension' claim

PUBLISHED: 10:13 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 10:16 13 July 2010

Only two of Norfolk's nine constituencies will definitely follow the traditional night time counting of general election votes this year, with critics claiming it will ruin the television tension of election night and increase the danger of fraud.

Only two of Norfolk's nine constituencies will definitely follow the traditional night time counting of general election votes this year, with critics claiming it will ruin the television tension of election night and increase the danger of fraud.

The county will be left trailing the rest of the country informing the public who their new MPs will be - a fact labelled “outrageous” by South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon.

Next day counting is expected to be common at this year's poll, with around a third of local authorities predicted to count on Friday morning rather than Thursday night, but the picture in Norfolk appears to be worse than any other part of the country.

Only North Norfolk and Norwich South have guaranteed counts on the night, with Great Yarmouth doing the same as long as the general election does not coincide with the local government elections of May 6.

The other six Norfolk seats will hold next day counts.

Political pundit and former North Norfolk parliamentary candidate Iain Dale said the position could be challenged if MPs bring a one line bill forcing the hand of local authorities - but he said this was “possible rather than probable”.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said the changes were coming about because of “penny pinching decisions of local authority chief executives” who were trying to save money on their budgets.

“But the sums involved are comparatively very small - either the local authority take it on the chin or start a debate with government about who should pay, but neither has happened.

In certain very rural, large constituencies a lengthy tradition of late counts was understandable for practical reasons, said Mr Bacon, but those small number of “stragglers” was about to mushroom into a much larger number, causing major changes.

“There is a serious risk that at 6am or 7am the next day we still have no idea which party is going to take over the fifth largest economy in the world, which is not acceptable.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was fully behind night time counts: “It comes as a surprise Norfolk only has two guaranteed counts on the night.

“This is a democracy and I instinctively think efforts should be made to count on the night and it seems extraordinary we could be drifting back into a slower process than previously.”


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