An Ipswich councillor and political activist from Thorpe St Andrew has been selected to fight Norwich North for Labour at the general election.John Cook, 45, (pictured) will try to take back the seat that his friend Ian Gibson held for Labour for 12 years until he quit over the expenses scandal. A by-election in the summer saw Labour candidate Chris Ostrowski heavily defeated by Conservative Chloe Smith, who became the country's youngest MP. Norwich North will be a hotly contested seat at next year's general election as Labour try to take it back from the Conservatives. Until this year it had been held by Dr Gibson since 1997, was held by the Conservatives for the previous three elections, and was a Labour seat from the 1950s to 1983.
Mr Ostrowski was not one of the 15 people to put their names forward for the selection this time round. The shortlist of four included Phil Taylor, a local Labour activist, college lecturer and former special adviser to Peter Hain, who was seen as a strong candidate, and Faye Abbott, 31, from Coventry, a party activist and city council candidate there. The fourth, Nadim Choudhary, from Northampton, was unable to attend the hustings on Saturday night because of a family emergency.
Mr Cook lived in Thorpe St Andrew until nine years ago, when he moved to Ipswich. He is secretary to the Labour party there and election agent and a borough councillor for Ipswich. He says he plans to stand down at the May elections and will return to Norwich. In the 1990s he represented Thorpe St Andrew on Broadland District Council and Norfolk County council and was also a parish councillor. He said:
I am really looking forward to getting stuck in and reacquainting myself with the many people in Norwich North who know me.
Norwich South MP Charles Clarke said:
John Cook will be an outstanding Labour candidate for Norwich North. He is very politically experienced and understands the constituency deeply. He will offer a real threat to Chloe Smith.
Mr Cook was Dr Gibson's election agent in 1992 and 1997 and says he was “treated harshly” over the expenses affair which led to his resignation. He is married to Adele, a lawyer working in the public sector, who also teaches at UEA, and they have a 19-year-old daughter.
Before becoming a professional politician he worked as a bank clerk and what was then the Department for Social Security and HM Customs and Excise. He is a former Scout leader and also enjoys paragliding.