WHAT was David Cameron afraid of in Norwich (North)? Yes, the Conservatives won Thursday's by-election there quite easily in a seat that Labour has held for 45 of the last 60 years. But the effort which Mr Cameron personally and the party as a whole put into getting this result was quite disproportionate to the task they faced. In present circumstances Labour would probably have had difficulty in holding the seat anyway but there was the added factor that the locally popular Labour MP had resigned in protest after being told by a Labour party inquisition that he would not be allowed to contest the seat at the general election because of an expenses offence. Many Labour voters disagreed with what had happened and may have stayed away on this count. But despite the bad signs for Labour and the prime minister's open admission that he expected to lose the seat, the Conservatives were in overdrive throughout the campaign. Mr Cameron visited the constituency six times and Conservative MPs were told to put in an appearance on three occasions and to clock in with the campaign manager. The greatest effort was made by Lord Ashcroft's team of marginal seat shock troops who were much in evidence, even producing street-specific campaign literature.

The result? On a 46 per cent turn-out the Conservatives got 40 per cent of the votes cast - representing 18 per cent of the electorate! An “absolutely historic” result, according to Mr Cameron.


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