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ELECTION 2013: UKIP hoping to woo Tory voters after bitter fight


Tomorrow, Leicestershire's election candidates will know whether six weeks of slogging on the campaign trail will have been worth it or not.

After a final push for votes yesterday, all that will be left for them to do is sit back and watch the ballot papers being counted.

The Tories currently hold the balance of power at County Hall with 33 of the 55 seats, but it is unclear how many of their core supporters will drift over to UKIP.

The two parties have been engaged in an often bitter campaign across the country.

Here in Leicestershire, insults have been traded face-to-face, in leaflets and on social media.

One of the most heated campaigns has been fought in the Markfield, Thornton division, where former Conservative county council leader David Sprason, now with UKIP, is looking to hold his seat against Tory candidate Peter Bedford.

Labour's Tom Neilson and Liberal Democrat Dianne Finney have fought quieter campaigns.

A number of high-profile sitting councillors are defending slender majorities from the last election.

Loughborough South was taken by the Tories in 2009 from Labour, but by just 25 votes.

Conservative councillor for the division, David Slater, the leader of Charnwood Borough Council, has faced a strong challenge from Labour's Robert Sharp, who is hoping to add to their tally of four seats at County Hall.

The Liberal Democrats, currently the main opposition group with 14 councillors, are hoping their candidate for the Market Harborough West and Foxton division will be able to take it from Conservative cabinet member Blake Pain, who holds a majority of just eight votes.

Across town in Harborough East, Liberal Democrat group deputy leader Sarah Hill is defending a majority of just 27 votes from the Conservatives.

Another seat of interest is Leicester Forest East and Kirby Muxloe, which is being vacated by former Tory council leader David Parsons, who quit after being censured over his European travel expenses.

The seat, traditionally a Tory stronghold, has been contested by Conservative deputy council leader Richard Blunt.

Coun Blunt, the leader of North West Leicestershire District Council, has given up the Ibstock and Appleby Magna seat, which Labour is hoping to regain.

Labour, seeking to become the largest opposition party, also has hopes of dislodging Coalville member Graham Partner, who won the seat for the BNP in 2009.

Coun Partner has been sitting as an independent but is standing for the English Democrats this time round.

Professor of local politics at De Montfort University, Colin Copus, said he thought national political trends would play a huge factor in the results.

He said: "Some councillors will win or lose their seats almost irrespective of what they or their councils have done. A lot of people will be voting for or against the Government.

"It's a bit sad because, though some people will be looking to send a message to Westminster, what we are actually doing is determining who will run the local council."

The election counts are due to begin at 11.30am.

ELECTION 2013: UKIP hoping to woo Tory voters after bitter fight

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