Yarmouth voters unaffected by TV debates
Prime minister Gordon Brown may not have shown the X factor so far in the two televised leadership debates. But as polls suggest Labour is struggling to drum up support nationally from the debates, it appears they may not have affected voters in Great Yarmouth as much as feared.
Prime minister Gordon Brown may not have shown the X factor so far in the two televised leadership debates.
But as polls suggest Labour is struggling to drum up support nationally from the debates, it appears they may not have affected voters in Great Yarmouth as much as feared.
With just over a week of campaigning left in the borough, the Labour and Conservative candidates are fighting for every vote in the traditional two-party race constituency.
As Labour's Tony Wright, MP for the last 13 years, mentions he is proud about his party's investment in the borough, his rival Brandon Lewis says that people should focus on what the future could hold if David Cameron becomes leader of the country.
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And as the two try to garner as many votes as possible, the constituency's third main candidate, Liberal Democrat Simon Partridge, is quietly and confidently going about his business canvassing in villages and undoubtedly will take some of his rivals' votes.
Although both Mr Wright and Mr Lewis say the televised debates have drummed up interest in the Yarmouth election race, they are keen to point out that their parties' local policies and future plans will hold the key to securing the seat.
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In a sign of how the television election programmes have galvanised the public imagination, Gorleston Theatre Pavilion was packed on Tuesday night as Mr Wright and Mr Lewis took part in a more polite public debate.
Mr Wright, who is relying on his 13- year track record as the town's MP, is keen to point out that major regeneration and construction projects in Yarmouth are now bearing fruit - such as the Outer Harbour and King Street improvement work.
And he claims that people are beginning to see how Tory-run County Hall and the borough council are cutting back on services - a situation that would be reflected nationally if the Conservatives gain power, he says.
He said: “There certainly seems to be more interest in this year's election than previous ones. As well as the televised debates, I think everyone realises that whoever wins the election will determine the outcome of the recession - which affects everyonelives and jobs.
“We are in a better position than a year ago. I think people in Yarmouth are beginning to recognise the past 13 years' achievements in the town and are thinking what would have happened under 13 years of Conservative rule instead.”
While Mr Wright has only invited one Labour minister on his election trail - housing and planning minister John Healey - Brandon Lewis has shown three shadow ministers, including shadow minister for transport Theresa Villiers, around the borough.
And Mr Lewis is also proud of how he is getting involved in local causes and campaigns, such as setting up the Fix Our Station group to improve Yarmouth's rail terminus.
Mr Lewis said: “I have to say the leaders' debates are not the first thing people mention on their doorsteps, but it has definitely raised the profile of the election.
“I am feeling very positive and can see that the people of Yarmouth are tired of Labour.
“The election is about fighting for Yarmouth's future. That is why I have been bringing the big hitters to Yarmouth to physically show them the issues affecting the town so when they are elected it will not just be a name to them.”
While the two main parties have invited senior party members on their election trail, the Lib Dems' Simon Partridge has been relying on his own efforts - and shoe leather - to establish a meaningful toehold in the borough.
As he knocks on villagers' doors in constituency villages such as Repps with Bastwick, Thurne, Ormesby and Rollesby, he has been staggered by the enthusiasm shown on the doorstep.
While the Lib Dems have under-performed in Yarmouth in past elections, Mr Partridge insisted this was a far more determined campaign.
He said: “Traditional Labour voters have said they will not be voting Labour and a lot of Tories are wavering.”