Friday, 17 July 2009

Parties trade blows as campaign enters final week


Politics appeared to be getting personal in the Norwich-North by-election last night as the gloves started to come off as the race to win the seat enters its final days.

With less than a week to go before polling day and despite a flurry of pledges to fight a clean and honest campaigns, the Tories issued a four page rebuttal in response to Labour leaflets alleging the party would impose a wave of cuts in government ranging from claims they would cut the number of Surestart centres in the city and would scrap free TV licences for pensioners.

In one, Miss Smith was attacked for previously seeking to become a Tory candidate in Ipswich, and accused of being a “Westminster insider” because of work she has done for the shadow cabinet in Westminster.

Labour believes the Tories are wrapping their candidate up in cotton wool after she refused to back down on a decision not to attend a hustings event at City Hall last night because it clashed with another campaign meeting.

That sparked the organisers, the Public Commercial Services Union who had publicised the event before all the candidates had confirmed they were attending, issuing a “wanted for questioning” leaflet with the Tory candidate on it.

And Labour's Chris Ostrowski issued a joint statement with the Green's Rupert Read, urging Miss Smith to attend all hustings events stating they were disappointed another had been cancelled next week because she was not going.

The Tories had signed up to four such hustings events including one tonight and a BBC Look East Question Time style event on Monday night, as well as a political 'speed dating' session.

And with one event at Hellesdon High School cancelled on Tuesday night because only three people turned up, and an Age Concern hustings yesterday morning attracting around 25 people, questions were being asked about whether they are an effective use of campaign time.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who is overseeing Labour's campaign denied the party was playing politics.

“It's actually quite a sad state of affairs,” he said. “The Tories are running scared in this by-election, and seem terrified of slipping up. They are more interested in TV and radio appearances than in having a genuine debate with people in Norwich North.”

Theresa May, who is spearheading the Conservative's by-election effort, said it was a shame that other parties were trying to attack the person rather than the policies.

“It's sad at a time people want a new politics and a new approach that we are seeing this approach from both Labour and the Lib Dems,” she said. “It's clear it's a two-horse race. What Labour are trying to do is work very hard in their core areas and their core vote and hoping, by their negative campaign, for a low turnout.”

Meanwhile the Lib Dems are also turning their fire on Labour's Chris Ostrowski in their leaflets highlighting his Tory past and accusing the former UEA student of being a “London Labour politician”.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who was also campaigning for April Pond in the city yesterday, brushed off suggestions that his party was playing dirty and said activists were surging ahead in the final days of the campaign trying to stop the Tories winning the seat.

“Labour is running away from the people of Norwich North and people aren't rushing to the Conservatives either,” he said.

“I can show you Conservative party leaflets in other by-elections which would make your hair stand on end,” he said. “You should have a strong and clean campaign, but you shouldn't hold back in saying where you disagree with people.”

Norwich Evening News 24

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