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All eyes on our election fight

PUBLISHED: 10:12 09 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:32 01 August 2010

VOTERS in Waveney were this week warned they could find themselves in a "whirlwind" as campaigning gets under way for what could be one of the closest-run battles in next month's General Election.

VOTERS in Waveney were this week warned they could find themselves in a “whirlwind” as campaigning gets under way for what could be one of the closest-run battles in next month's General Election.

Waveney is regarded as a pivotal constituency in the countdown to the polling day on May 6, as the Tories seek to win at least 116 seats from Labour to secure a majority at government at Westminster.

Experts say that because Waveney is the 116th most marginal seat on the Tories' list of targets, victory for their candidate Peter Aldous over Labour's sitting MP Bob Blizzard would signal a big enough swing to give the Conservatives overall victory.

And that is likely to prompt the main parties to roll out a series of senior and high-profile figures to back their local campaigns.

As if to illustrate the seat's importance, Sky TV chose Lowestoft on Tuesday for its live broadcast location on the day that the date of the election was formally announced.

Mr Blizzard, Mr Aldous and Lib-Dem candidate Alan Dean were all interviewed, along with a number of other prominent local figures, and Sky crews also spent the day filming around the town, gauging the mood of local voters.

Sky correspondent Andrew Wilson said he expected Waveney to be at the centre of political attention.

“I'd expect there to be a kind of lull before campaigning really gets started but when it does I expect there to be a flurry of attention if not a whirlwind,” he said. “Voters in Waveney should expect to see a good number of senior party figures heading their way, particularly as Ipswich and Great Yarmouth are also on the Tories' list of Labour seats it hopes to win.”

The Tories need a swing of about 6pc to win Waveney, which has been a Labour seat since Bob Blizzard came into office in 1997 with 56pc of the votes.

Before that it was a Tory stronghold; the seat was held by former cabinet minister Jim - now Lord - Prior from 1959 to 1987 and he was succeeded by David Porter, who retained the seat for the Conservatives in 1987, although that was before boundary changes that saw Southwold, Halesworth and southern parts of the district, including Wrentham, moved into the Suffolk Coastal constituency.

Sky election pundit Michael Thrasher, who's Professor of Politics at the University of Plymouth, said: “Looking at the latest national polls, it's likely to be nip and tuck here in Waveney. It's on a knife-edge and very hard to predict.

“The Tories have to make a massive effort with their campaign here. If they don't, they'll effectively be sending out a sign that they've accepted they're not going to win an outright majority and that they've settled for a hung parliament.”

The difficulty picking a winner in Waveney comes from the fact that the constituency is distinctly split between Lowestoft, home to nearly half the district's population, and the smaller, more affluent market towns of Beccles and Bungay and surrounding villages.

The Conservatives have already started showcasing the importance of Waveney as Mr Aldous has welcomed shadow health minister Mark Simmonds and shadow environment minister Greg Clark to the town in recent weeks.

The Liberal Democrats have fared quite well in Waveney in the past two General Elections, winning 11.4pc and 15.1pc of the votes in 2001 and 2005 respectively and Essex-based candidate Alan Dean will be hoping to improve that total this time around.

Alongside the main contenders, Green party councillor Graham Elliott and UKIP candidate Jack Tyler will be hoping to boost the local performance of their parties.

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