Monday, 6 July 2009

Independent candidates await their Norwich by-election chance

Independent candidates vying for the vote in the Norwich North by-election are keeping their fingers crossed that public anger with Westminster politics can boost their campaign - in the absence of a well-oiled party machine to help them.

So far, all the focus has been on the main parties ahead of the July 23 by-election, and with the Tories currently the favourites to win, there is little suggestion so far of a shock result emerging in the race to succeed Ian Gibson.

Yesterday, Labour's Chris Ostrowski challenged Conservative candidate Chloe Smith to a head-to-head debate, while the Lib Dems, Greens, and UK Independence Party are also busy campaigning on the ground.

Beyond them there are two independents standing, a Libertarian Party candidate, the Monster Raving Loony Party is putting forward a candidate, and there is speculation former boxer Terry Marsh is to stand as a “none of the above” option.

But the potential independent candidate who could make the biggest splash in the contest, and the one most feared by everyone else, is Dr Gibson himself, and so far he appears to have ruled himself out.

An EDP 24 survey found that nearly 40pc of those polled would vote for Dr Gibson if he stood, and with the remaining 60pc likely to be split across differing party lines, it is the sort of snippet which could give the veteran backbencher food for thought if he chose to have a go.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray, who grew up in north Norfolk, is standing as an “anti-sleaze” independent candidate and also banking on his record on human rights issues, to help him win votes.

Previously Mr Murray, who resigned his post in protest at the government's human rights record in the so-called war on terror, stood against his former boss Jack Straw in the 2005 general election polling 2,082 votes. During the European elections he endorsed the Greens' Rupert Read, who is also standing, but now insists he has the better chance in Norwich North.
Ian Gibson.

“This is a very serious attempt to win the election,” said Mr Murray. “The expenses scandal is a symptom of the deep malaise in our political system.

“I am not condemning Ian Gibson, I think he has definitely been made a scapegoat. The reason for that was that he was the sort of politician we need, someone who doesn't blindly follow the party line,” he added. “What he did was wrong, but he was by no means the worst.”

Bill Holden, who is standing for the second time in the constituency, polled around 300 votes at the last general election. The 52-year-old Open University politics graduate and casual worker, believes public attitudes may have caught up with his political message, which includes agreeing to follow “majority opinion” in the constituency on an issue-by-issue basis before casting his vote in Parliament.

“If the reaction I have had on the doorstep is anything to be believed, there is a great wish to change,” he said. “People are very tired of business as usual. They don't relate to the politicians and don't see why they should vote to participate in a system which is so flawed.”


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