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Six Norfolk and Waveney Tory MPs would lose seats to Brexit Party if there was an election today, says poll

Tory MPs who a Best for Britain poll says would lose their seats. Clockwise from top left - Peter Aldous, Liz Truss, George Freeman, Keith Simpson, Sir Henry Bellingham, and Brandon Lewis. Photos: Archant

Tory MPs who a Best for Britain poll says would lose their seats. Clockwise from top left - Peter Aldous, Liz Truss, George Freeman, Keith Simpson, Sir Henry Bellingham, and Brandon Lewis. Photos: Archant

Archant

As Labour pipped The Brexit Party to the post by just 600 votes in Peterborough, politics correspondent Geraldine Scott looks at whether Norfolk and Waveney MPs could be at risk from Nigel Farage's new party.

Nigel Farage claimed to have "fundamentally changed" British politics despite his party's narrow defeat as Labour won the Peterborough by-election.

The Brexit Party, which formed less than six months ago, was beaten by just 683 votes as the Conservatives fell back into third place.

But his party could fare better in Norfolk and Waveney if there was a general election today - according to a poll from groups HOPE not Hate and Best for Britain.

Pro-remain group Best for Britain was founded by Gina Miller, and started as a bid to encourage tactical voting ahead of the June 2017 elections to get remain MPs into the Commons.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage arrives with party candidate Mike Greene (left) at KingsGate Church in Peterborough where votes were counted in the Peterborough by-election. . Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireBrexit Party leader Nigel Farage arrives with party candidate Mike Greene (left) at KingsGate Church in Peterborough where votes were counted in the Peterborough by-election. . Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The poll found the majority of Norfolk and Waveney's Tory MPs would be wiped out by the Brexit Party, with just two of the area's Conservative representatives predicted to survive.

While Richard Bacon and Chloe Smith were predicted by the poll to be safe, Brandon Lewis, George Freeman, Keith Simpson, Sir Henry Bellingham, Liz Truss, and Peter Aldous would lose their seats, according to the poll.

Neither Labour's Clive Lewis not Norman Lamb, for the Liberal Democrats, were thought to be at risk.

It comes as Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary and Tory leadership contender, said the Peterborough by-election, which saw the Tories finish third, showed there was "no future" for the Conservatives unless the UK's withdrawal from the European Union was completed before a general election.

Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene gives a thumbs down as newly elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes gives her winners speech after the count for the Peterborough. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireBrexit Party candidate Mike Greene gives a thumbs down as newly elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes gives her winners speech after the count for the Peterborough. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson also said that a failure to deliver Brexit risked putting Labour's Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.

Labour's Lisa Forbes took victory by 683 votes. The Brexit Party said "no seat is safe" after their performance.

But on the Norfolk and Waveney prospects Mr Simpson, who represents Broadland, said it was important not to take just one poll too seriously, as predictions could soon change.

He said: "We're going to have to look at it over the next few months. I've seen it before, so I'm not in full panic mode, which some of my colleagues may be."

Newly elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes gives her winners speech after the count for the Peterborough by-election. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA WireNewly elected Labour MP Lisa Forbes gives her winners speech after the count for the Peterborough by-election. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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While Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said there was a clear message from the public that Brexit needed to be delivered.

He said: "We had an election two weeks ago and I was at the count on the Sunday night and it was quite clear then that the Brexit Party were polling extremely well, that the two remain parties had done well, while ourselves and the Labour Party were polling very, very badly.

"I think the poll confirms what happened two weeks ago [in the European elections] and the feedback I get from constituents, and people are fed up with delays."

George Freeman, who represents Mid Norfolk, said: "I promised to respect the 2016 referendum and have kept that promise, I am 100pc committed to us leaving the European Union.

"I voted for Article 50, campaigned for EFTA and voted for the EU Withdrawal Bill, which was blocked by no dealers and remainers in Parliament.

"We need to leave the EU with a good deal that doesn't damage our economy. If we fail to do that we will be out - and Jeremy Corbyn will be in Number 10 with SNP and Lib Dem support".

Sir Henry Bellingham, for North West Norfolk, echoed these sentiments and said the first job for the new Conservative leader would be to deliver Brexit.

He said: "I think every single Conservative seat in the country is going to be at risk if we don't deliver Brexit. If we deliver Brexit, the Brexit Party would be destroyed overnight."

The Daily Mail reported in April that the founder of anti-Europe campaign group Leave.EU Arron Banks was planning to stand in Mr Lewis' Great Yarmouth constituency for the Brexit Party.

At the time, the party denied this as they were focussing on the European elections, but Andy Wigmore, from Leave.EU, said: "We believe that fielding Arron in his constituency gives those disappointed with Brandon and the Conservatives an opportunity at the next election - whenever that may be - to have a vote that counts.

"The Tories are going to get punished by their supporters for not honouring a democratic vote - the chairman has to take responsibility for his part in this mess, it's on his watch."

A friend of Mr Lewis previously said, of Mr Banks: "I suspect he'd struggle to find Great Yarmouth on a map but good luck to him."

Brandon Lewis and Liz Truss were contacted for comment.Nick Lowles, HOPE not Hate chief executive, said: ""This poll reveals a quite shocking surge in a hardline rightwing Brexit Party, led by a divisive and dangerous politician in Nigel Farage. If this poll results were borne out, it would cause a political earthquake to say the least - we are onto very, very dangerous ground and every mainstream party needs to think very carefully about how to avoid these results coming to pass."

While Best for Britain chief operations officer Naomi Smith said: "This data shows that Brexit votes are split between Farage's party and the Conservatives. This should be a wake up call to internationalist MPs in all parties. If a new Conservative leader strikes a deal with Farage, future generations won't forgive those internationalist MPs who fail to do the same, and strongly make the case for a final say on Brexit."

The study was carried out by Focaldata, who collected vote intention data from 15,231 respondents between May 17 and May 30, 2019 from numerous panel companies including Opinium and YouGov which were commissioned by HOPE not hate and Best for Britain.

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