Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Norwich North: Hot, Spicy And World News

From Sky News by Jon Craig:


City of Colman's mustard, Delia Smith and Alan Partridge. And now also for what will surely be a famous by election, on July 23, with huge significance in the run-up to the 2010 general election.

If the Conservatives can overturn the 5,459 majority won by veteran Labour rebel Ian Gibson at the last election, David Cameron will be more confident of victory in the general election next year.

But if Labour can - against the odds - hold on, Gordon Brown's gamble of a quick dash to the polls will have paid off and the Labour fightback will suddenly start to look more credible.

Gibson, a 70-year-old former University of East Anglia academic who has quit after being dumped by Labour over his expenses, won the seat from the Tories with a thumping 10,000 majority in Labour's 1997 landslide. In 1992 he came close, narrowly losing to the Conservatives by just 266 votes.

The Lib Dems polled 16 per cent of the vote in 2005, just ahead of the Greens, who did well in Norwich North in the local and European elections four weeks ago but are stronger in Charles Clarke's Norwich South constituency.
Labour's candidate in the byelection, who was only selected last weekend, is 28-year-old Chris Ostrowski, a UEA graduate who now works for John Lewis. Yes, the upmarket retailer of "John Lewis list" fame in the long-running Westminster expenses scandal.

The Conservative candidate is Chloe Smith, 27, who the Tories claim is local but doesn't actually live in the constituency, I'm told. She was selected 18 months ago to fight the next general election.

Two young candidates, then. Whichever one wins - and though the Lib Dems and Greens can influence the outcome, they won't win - Norwich North will have the youngest MP in the Commons after the by election.

Ladbrokes make the Tories 1/2 favourites, Labour 9/2, Green 12/1 and the Lib Dems 33/1.

Now you may have gathered from my first paragraph that I know very little about Norwich. My good friend Philip Webster, political editor of The Times, tells me it's "God's own city in God's own county". But then he is a Norfolk boy and is a tad biased.

My Sky News colleague Laura Bundock, a Norfolk girl, tells me: 
Norwich North is a mixed bag, lots of council houses, especially in Mile Cross ward, but very suburban around Thorpe St Andrew. Norwich city centre is not in the constituency.

Don't forget, the boundaries are moving after the next general election. Norwich North is losing Drayton and Taverham, very traditionally Conservative wards. So if Labour is going to hold the seat, now is the best time.
Which is why the Conservatives are throwing everything but the kitchen sink (whether or not it's paid for by taxpayers and approved by the Fees Office) at the byelection. David Cameron has already been twice and George Osborne and Chris Grayling once.

Keen as mustard, you might say.

A by election in high summer in the city of Colman's and Delia: hot, spicy and tasty.

Or, as Alan Partridge might say: "Ah ha".

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