So, I’d better ‘fes up from the start. I am a Green Party activist. I’ve been a party member for nearly a decade. It’s not surprising that I am writing about why one of the top target seats for the party is significant.
The election in Norwich South is unique in England. It is the only place I can think of where a right wing Labour incumbent faces a serious challenge from their left.
The seat has come down to 2 candidates: Green Party deputy leader Adrian Ramsay (no relation); and former Minister now right-wing rebel, Charles Clarke. Greens have the majority of councillors across the seat.
They’ve topped the poll in the local elections every year since 2007, and came first in the Euros. Adrian’s been endorsed by numerous former Lib Dem and Labour councillors, and their ground campaign is second to none.
Adrian has been a councillor for the last seven years, and was, until recently, leader of the Greens’ first ever official council opposition (he stood down as group leader to focus on the General Election). He has gained a reputation in Norwich for defending public services – nursery schools to care gomes – from council cuts, opposing PFI deals, and defending jobs by stopping a Tesco takover of the high street destroying local businesses.
In his ward in the heart of Norwich South, he was re-elected with around 62% of the vote.
Charles Clarke needs little introduction. Perhaps it’s enough to say that he has attempted 3 coups against Gordon Brown for not being right wing enough. He is the man behind top-up fees, ID cards, PFI city academies. He represents everything that’s wrong with Labour.
Well, if Labour lose this election, we can expect some soul searching about what went wrong.
We’ll see, I’d guess, three camps. The first, loyalists, will say that the recession was unlucky, they made the best of a tough job, and 13 years is a reasonable term. The second, Blairite rebels, will say, we can expect, that Brown’s “class war” rhetoric and lack of charisma lost it – that, as Charles Clarke seems to think, Brown wasn’t right wing enough. The third, lefties, will argue that the swing to the right over 15 years was to blame.
For progressives in the UK, whether or not we support the Labour Party, it will be important that the third camp wins this argument against the second (and the first).
There’s a much simpler way to think about this. Imagine it’s election night and Charles Clarke loses to Adrian Ramsay. What message would that send to New Labour?
By Adam Ramsay