The Conservative Party has announced its candidate to take on Clive Lewis in Norwich South at the next general election.

David Simister-Thomas, who was headteacher at Jane Austen College in Colegate between 2018 and 2021, has been selected "to increase social mobility and grow the Norwich economy".

Norwich Evening News: David Simister-Thomas is the former headteacher of Jane Austen CollegeDavid Simister-Thomas is the former headteacher of Jane Austen College (Image: Norwich Conservatives)

Mr Simister-Thomas was awarded an OBE for his services to education after co-founding online school Oak National Academy during the pandemic.

He later joined the Department of Education as a government advisor.

"It’s a privilege to be selected here in Norwich," said Mr Simister-Thomas, who runs the  Mathematics Education for Social Mobility and Excellence (Mesme) charity.

"I was committed to helping the families of Norwich as a headteacher, and I'm committed to doing that if elected to be Norwich South's next MP. 

Norwich Evening News: Simon Jones, chairman of the Norwich Conservative Federation, said he was delighted about the selectionSimon Jones, chairman of the Norwich Conservative Federation, said he was delighted about the selection (Image: Simon Jones)

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"I want Norwich to be a place where every child growing up has the opportunity to build the best possible lives for themselves, where no child is limited by their background.

"I believe that’s possible, and I look forward to working with people across the city to make it happen."

Mr Simister-Thomas graduated from his philosophy, politics and economics degree at the University of Oxford in 2011 and then studied for a teaching PGCE in mathematics.

The Conservative candidate will be taking on Labour's Clive Lewis at the next general election, who has held the seat since 2015, which is expected to be held in late 2024.

Speaking on the news, Mr Lewis said: "This is a candidate for a desperate Tory party that's cynically filching from the playbook of Trump, Hungary's Orban and Italy's Meloni and other authoritarian populist right demagogues across the globe.

Norwich Evening News: Clive Lewis has held Norwich South since 2015Clive Lewis has held Norwich South since 2015 (Image: House of Commons)

"But it's already crystal clear that most people in Norwich South oppose the anti-democratic, climate and environment-harming, poverty and disadvantage-accelerating policies Mr Simister-Thomas's party represents.

"I don't fancy his chances either standing on the Tories' similarly pernicious local track record since 2010.

"And from mental health through dentistry to A&E, Mr Simister-Thomas's party has pushed Norwich's health system to breaking point."

It has been more than 30 years since a Conservative MP held Norwich South, with John Powley the last to serve between 1983 and 1987.

Norwich Evening News: John Powley (right) with Margaret ThatcherJohn Powley (right) with Margaret Thatcher (Image: Newsquest)

Two consecutive Labour representatives followed before Liberal Democrat Simon Wright was elected in the 2010 general election.

The Green Party's candidate for the seat, Jamie Osborn, is hopeful of becoming the constituents' first Green MP.

"More than a third of children in Norwich South are living in poverty," he said.

"Many families are working harder than ever, yet living standards are falling and the cost of living is soaring. All this under the Conservatives' watch, while Labour offers no distinct alternative.

Norwich Evening News: Green Party candidate Jamie OsbornGreen Party candidate Jamie Osborn (Image: Jamie Osborn)

"The Green Party would scrap the cruel policy of cutting benefits for families with three children or more, which both Conservatives and Labour support.

"We would properly fund early education and childcare, invest in education that does not treat schools as exam factories, and would ensure higher education is free for everyone so that young people are not priced out or burdened with debt."

The Conservatives are yet to announce their candidate to replace the outgoing Chloe Smith in Norwich North

Labour will be hoping Alice Macdonald can turn the seat red, while the Greens have high hopes for Ben Price. 

Speaking on the selection of Mr Simister-Thomas, Chloe Smith said: "David is a senior community figure and experienced campaigner who will work hard for Norwich.

"He would be an excellent MP for Norwich South."

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Norwich Evening News: Norwich North MP Chloe Smith will be stepping down at the next general electionNorwich North MP Chloe Smith will be stepping down at the next general election (Image: PA)

Simon Jones, chairman of the Norwich Conservative Federation, added: "The Norwich Conservatives and I are excited to have David as our candidate for Norwich South.

"David is known for the work he did as headmaster of Jane Austen College and we are delighted that his work ethic and care for the community will once again be seen in Norwich."

The Lib Dems are yet to announce their candidate.

Norwich South voting

Clive Lewis comfortably held the seat in the 2019 election despite a 7.2pc decrease in votes, to a majority of 12,760 (53.7pc of the vote).

Tory candidate Mike Spencer was second on 29pc, which was a drop of 1.6pc as the Lib Dems recovered slightly to 9.2pc as James Wright earned a 3.7pc increase.

That was a far cry from 2010 though when Simon Wright edged out Labour heavyweight Charles Clarke with a majority of just 310 with 29.4pc of votes.

This collapsed to fourth place and 13.6pc of the vote in 2015 though after the Lib Dems went back on their pledge to oppose increasing tuition fees while in coalition with the Tories, in a constituency which includes the University of East Anglia.

That saw former BBC journalist Mr Lewis surge to 39.3pc with a majority of more than 7,000.