COUNTDOWN TO NORWICH NORTH BY-ELECTION - 2 DAYS
The final days of the Norwich North by-election campaign are coming to the boil with a parade of the big beasts and more accusations of dirty tricks.
Chancellor Alistair Darling joined the Labour campaign yesterday for a trip to the Financial Skills Academy first for a private meeting with Norfolk business leaders, followed by a chance to boost the campaign of the party's candidate Chris Ostrowski.
Conservative leader David Cameron made his fifth visit to the city in as many weeks, rallying the party faithful at a stop off at Drayton Village Hall and taking a first hand look at the Carrowbreck project in Hellesdon, a pioneering training scheme helping to steer youngsters away from crime and into skilled work.
Also on the campaign trail were the Greens, who took their eco-friendly 'battlebus' around the city, and UKIP, whose leader Nigel Farage took part in a public meeting last night.
Lord Mandelson and Lib Dem shadow chancellor are due in town today and the former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke is also visiting.
As the final days become increasingly fraught, Labour yesterday issued their own 10-page dossier attacking “Tory smears” during the campaign.
Labour's battle plan has been based around claims that the Tories spending plans would mean cuts in the number of Surestart centres and police officers in the city - which the Conservatives have dismissed as dishonest.
Yesterday the Lib Dems also tried to put Miss Smith, who is favourite to win, on the spot over her work on secondment for the Conservatives - insisting she was in a fact a Westminster insider.
Mr Darling said that voters needed to be aware of the clear differences between the two on the public spending issue.
“Everyone knows that the next few years are going to be tough, and all political parties are going to have to make difficult decisions,” he said. “What's important is that people understand where the parties' priorities lie. There is a clear difference. The Tories are using the current problems as cover for what they are going to cut. That's what people need to think about when they go to the polling booths on Thursday.
“People will want to know whether it's the Tories, Labour or the Liberal Democrats where you stand on the issues that make a difference to people's quality of life.”
Mr Cameron has accused the other parties of “desperate stuff” in their election literature and praised Miss Smith for fighting a positive campaign, suggesting it could prove a model for the next general election.
“For people who want change there is a chance in this by-election - and that's Chloe Smith and the Conservatives,” he said. “We've set out what our policies are.
“People are angry with all political parties and they are quite rightly making the people who want to get elected work hard. I'm not being complacent, we have to get out there and win every vote.”
Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb issued a letter he has sent to Miss Smith questioning her work on secondment for the Conservative Party in Westminster.
Conservative campaign manager Theresa May said the letter was a “stunt” and said the Lib Dems and Labour had only offered negative campaign instead of substantial policies. The Tories confirmed last week that the 27-year-old has been working for frontbench MPs and she was issued a parliamentary pass from shadow work and pensions minister James Clappison, who was forced to pay back some of his expenses in the wake of the recent scandal.
But Mr Lamb defended his letter.
“There is an issue of hypocrisy here,” he said. “She has been working for Bernard Jenkin and James Clappison, both of whom have had their expenses highlighted. I am asking if she believes these MPs should take the same course of action as Ian Gibson (and resign).”
Norwich Evening News 24