Great Yarmouth win vital for Tories
Stephen PullingerIn an age of elections increasingly dominated by the media it was perhaps fitting that the Tories' opening salvo in one of the region's most hotly contested constituencies could fairly be described as The Eric and Brandon Show.Stephen Pullinger
In an age of elections increasingly dominated by the media it was perhaps fitting that the Tories' opening salvo in one of the region's most hotly contested constituencies could fairly be described as The Eric and Brandon Show.
For party chairman Eric Pickles and Great Yarmouth's prospective Tory candidate Brandon Lewis were, until the latter's move up to Norfolk, the unlikely hosts of a show of that name on Phoenix FM in Brentwood, Essex.
The pair, sitting Brentwood and Ongar MP and former Brentwood council leader, once entertained listeners with a monthly mix of interviews of local personalities and music.
But on yesterday's mission to Yarmouth at the invitation of his former fellow presenter, Mr Pickles faced an altogether more rigorous challenge of convincing voters why they should elect a Tory MP for the first time since the advent of New Labour.
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After fielding questions from students at Gorleston's East Norfolk Sixth Form College on everything from student loans to inheritance tax, he sat down to expound the Tories' new action plan for coastal towns entitled 'No longer the end of the line'.
Mr Pickles, who earlier on his whistle-stop tour had visited coastal erosion campaigners in Winterton and businesses in the north Norfolk constituency village of Catfield, acknowledged that millions of pounds of regeneration money had flooded into Yarmouth under Labour's tenure.
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But he said the Tories' intention was to target resources more beneficially at district and county council level rather than decisions being taken remotely by such bodies as the East of England Development Agency.
And he said councils such as Yarmouth's would be encouraged to woo new enterprises and homes through the incentive of keeping more taxes generated locally.
Other elements of its policy would see the cancelling of Labour's council tax revaluation which would incur higher tax for having sea views, allowing privately owned historic seaside attractions, such as piers, to apply for Lottery funding, and giving councils and the police powers to restrict the number of late licences and tackle alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.
Acknowledging the critical importance of the Yarmouth constituency, he said: 'If Brandon does not win, David Cameron does not walk through the door of 10 Downing Street. I told the students at East Norfolk Sixth Form College that they are fortunate to live here because they will determine who wins the election.'