Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Contenders for Ian Gibson's Norwich seat emerge

Glenn Tingle was out in Norwich yesterday with party chairman and newly elected UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall.
The 46-year-old civil engineer and former army medic believes that he can pull off a surprise and win the seat for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), when the by-election is eventually called.
Buoyed by the recent European elections where UKIP won two seats and the council polls where the party won seats in Yarmouth and Waveney and finished second in parts of the Norwich North seat, including Hellesdon, Old Catton and Sprowston, his main problem could be his tendency to call it as he sees it - which may yet prove manna from heaven to his rivals.
He talks a lot about Europe, as you would expect, and immigration - sparking claims, which he has strongly denied, that he is fighting a negative, racist campaign.
But his biggest asset could be that he comes across as surprisingly down to earth - exactly like the sort of person that he was talking to yesterday while out campaigning in city pubs.
That could help him attract Tory voters in the leafy suburbs, and some of the hard-to-reach working-class areas north of the city, such as Catton Grove, where he grew up.
“With the general election coming in a year's time, I am hoping people would give me a chance,” he said. “I think this is our time.
“If I'm lucky enough to be elected, I would like to look after local people. It's not about what you can do nationally, it's about what you can do for the people of Norwich North.”
Dismissing his 27-year-old Tory rival and the favourite Chloe Smith as lacking life experience, he said UKIP would offer voters a fresh start. And he insisted UKIP was not a single-issue party.
“I think people are looking for somebody who has had bad times as well as good times, and has had to work hard, instead of spoon-fed politicians,” he said. “And unlike these career politicians, I would be happy to give 10pc of my gross salary to a local charity in Norwich chosen by the voters.
“It's about what's happening in our neighbourhood and people having control over their own lives,” he added.
Mr Nuttall said UKIP's campaign message was about giving power back to the people and it was a theme they wanted to hit the ground running with now.
“It's a massive challenge under the first-past-the-post system, but with the expenses scandal all bets are off,” he said. “People who traditionally vote for Labour, Conservatives or Lib Dems are looking for a clean break. We believe in local referenda, zero tolerance on crime, and a strong line on immigration.”
Meanwhile (Conservative candidate) Chloe Smith has been hosting a succession of shadow ministers, while David Cameron himself dropped into Norwich last Monday for one of his 'Cameron direct' roadshows. Yesterday she was at Norwich City College with David Willetts, shadow universities and skills secretary to meet staff and students.
And not to be left out, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg headed East to drum up support for the cause - even before the party had selected its candidate April Pond.
And then there was Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, who was in Norwich to build bridges with angry activists after Ian Gibson's de-selection. Labour has had 15 CVs from people who are interested in standing for the seat and will pick a winner on Sunday.
But the party machine is already cranking itself up for the campaign ahead with a flood of press releases including one yesterday featuring city council leader Steve Morphew attacking Tory policies on repossessions, and Euro MP Richard Howitt attacking the Tories for their new political alliance in the European Parliament with “fringe” parties.
The Greens meanwhile, who also fancy their chances, will select their candidate tomorrow and party leader Caroline Lucas is also expected to visit the city.
It is going to be a busy few weeks ahead.

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