Page last updated at 19:29 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 20:29 UK

Media descends on Norwich count

By Nic Rigby
BBC News website, Norwich

Chloe Smith and Alan "Howling Laud" Hope
The Loony Party leader congratulated the new Tory MP for Norwich North

Despite a clear backlash against politicians, there was no "loony landslide" as envisaged by Monster Raving Loony leader Howling Laud.

Laud, aka Alan Hope, only got 144 votes, so a statue of Norwich football fan Delia Smith and space hoppers for all may have to wait.

That was the surreal end to a rather surreal day when the world's media descended on an agricultural show hall.

One MP joked it was used at the Royal Norfolk Show for the "rare breeds".

The count for the Norwich North by-election was being held in a building called St Walstan's hall, named appropriately after the patron saint of farmers - who died while scything a hay crop.

Norwich North by-election
Chloe Smith (Con) 13,591 (39.5%)
Chris Ostrowski (Lab) 6,243 (18.16%)
April Pond (LD) 4,803 (13.97%)
Glenn Tingle (UKIP) 4,068 (11.83%)
Rupert Read (Green) 3,350 (9.74%)
Craig Murray (Ind) 953 (2.77%)
Robert West (BNP) 941 (2.74%)
C maj 7,348 (21.37%) 16.49% swing Lab to Con
Turnout 34,377 (45.76%, down 15.33% on gen election)

The media started arriving as the ballot boxes were opened at 0900 BST.

One of the earliest in was a crew from Iranian television.

They were amused by the signs into Norwich labelling it "A Fine City", a phrase coined by East Anglian poet George Borrow in the 19th Century.

The first few hours as ballot papers were verified and the count started was spent with journalists speculating endlessly but knowing very little.

The turnout of 45.7% was lower than the last general election (61%), but higher than many were predicting.

Conservative spinners were attempting to damp down expectations about their chances to anyone who would listen.

They had the most to lose from this election. A small win could have scuppered the Cameron bandwagon.

One Labour activist told me: "The Conservatives are ridiculously trying to play down talk of a Tory victory."

With many voters angry at the way popular Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson had been treated by the party, and polls showing the Tories clearly ahead nationally, its campaign team were resigned to failure.

The party also saw its candidate Chris Ostrowski come down with suspected swine flu in the final days of the campaign.

When the final results were announced it was a big victory for the Conservatives.

Chloe Smith won with 13,591 votes (39.5%), a huge swing from Labour to the Tories of 16.5%.

Chloe Smith and David Cameron
Chloe Smith won the Norwich North by-election

Labour managed to come second with 6,243 votes, with the Lib Dems third with 4,803.

The United Kingdom Independence Party managed to gain 4,068 votes (a huge 11.83% slice of the vote).

UKIP candidate Glenn Tingle said the results mean "voters in this area will remember UKIP when the general and local elections come around".

The Green Party's Rupert Read won 3,350 votes.

Former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray picked up 953 votes, while Robert West won 941 votes for the British National Party.

Professor Anthony King, a renowned political pundit from Essex University, said the share of the vote for the smaller parties had risen from 6% in the last general election to 28% at this election.

"That is a good measure of the scale of popular discontent, not just with any one particular party, but with the political class in general," he said.

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