December 12 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
As Norwich North MP Chloe Smith tendered her resignation as a minister to devote more time to the constituency, Political Editor Annabelle Dickson reflects on the upcoming fight for the seat in 2015.
In just over 18 months the eyes of the political world will be on Norwich.
The city will be a crucial barometer of the 2015 general election, with two marginal seats up for grabs.
While Simon Wright’s few hundred majority in Norwich South is viewed as easy pickings, Norwich North is seen by Labour as a much harder fight, but doable.
The party believes it can overcome sitting MP Chloe Smith’s 3,901 majority. And despite only sitting at 67th on the Labour Party target list, it is talked about among party ranks in the same breath as seats with much lesser majorities.
So unlike many of her colleagues in Norfolk with hefty majorities, Ms Smith cannot take her seat for granted.
Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) has already got itself into gear and over the past year has been working on its election strategy, characterised by its 40-40 campaign – 40 target seats and 40 seats it needs to defend.
Unlike the Labour Party, CCHQ has not widely published where these are. And even if it is not on the secret list of seats to defend, it will be near.
While there is huge optimism from her party that Ms Smith can hold the seat, nothing is a given.
Ms Smith has been a diligent and high-profile campaigner in Norwich and may have an incumbent advantage.
But having taken a seat with an electorate which had been loyal to Labour MP Ian Gibson for more than a decade she cannot rest on her laurels. Voters will have to be convinced not only by the local candidate but by David Cameron or Ed Miliband.
The next 18 months are not going to be dull.
By standing down from her ministerial post Ms Smith is showing just how serious about the fight she is.