Thursday, 25 June 2009

Green Party select candidate for Norwich North fight

The Green Party last night selected Rupert Read to contest the Norwich North by-election, leaving Labour as the last major party not to have a candidate in place for the poll.
The Greens believe they could pull off a surprise in the constituency following the selection of Dr Read, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. He defeated teachers Jessica Goldfinch and Claire Stephenson in the three-way contest.
Earlier this month Dr Read stood for the Greens in the European Parliament elections, narrowly failing to win a seat after the party polled 8.8pc of the vote in the region.
And last night he said was looking forward to the by-election, triggered after Ian Gibson's resignation.
“I'm honoured to be given the opportunity to represent the Green party in a by-election in which, for the first time ever, the national spotlight will be on the Green party and our prospects are being taken extremely seriously.”
Meanwhile the unofficial campaign continued apace with Tory candidate Chloe Smith in Sprowston with shadow energy and climate change secretary Greg Clark.
Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt will be at the Norwich University College of the Arts meeting aspiring artists to highlight the European Year of Creativity and Innovation.
On a less high-brow level, Labour, who will choose their candidate on Sunday, also took a swipe at the Tories over crime - recycling claims the Conservatives would cut spending by 10pc, while the Lib Dems were challenging Miss Smith to condemn the party's new alliance in the European Parliament.
Meanwhile Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is back in Norwich today and could face embarrassing questions about the strength of party support for candidate April Pond.
The Lib Dems have strongly insisted they could do well in Norwich, despite the fact that the party has been on the retreat on the city council - holding only six seats after running the council in 2005.
But Tory blogger Iain Dale claimed on his website that Mrs Pond was in fact the third choice and the party first tried to recruit former BBC journalist Martin Bell, and the EDP's retiring editor Peter Franzen.
Mr Franzen, who steps down next month, yesterday refused to confirm or deny the speculation, but in his response to the blogger said he would not be drawn any further.
“It is true that Nick Clegg came to the EDP last week to do a 'web chat' and that he and I discussed Norwich North and my imminent retirement as editor of the Eastern Daily Press, but I think it would be unfair to the now-adopted prospective parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems (April Pond) to say any more than that,” he said.
A Lib Dem spokesman also declined to divulge anymore details of any approaches to non-party members by their leader, and said insisted the party was “delighted” with its choice of candidate.
“Like any political party we cast our net far and wide for candidates encouraging them to stand in our internal selection contest,” he said.
“The choice of candidate is always left to our local members and this by-election is no different.”

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