Constituency profile: Tories battle to keep Norwich seat
PUBLISHED: 08:34 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:55 23 May 2017
Norwich North is a prized seat for the Conservatives.
This patch – which has been fiercely fought over since it first appeared in 1950 – stretches northwards from the city centre through suburbia and onwards to land prime for development.
In Conservative Campaign Headquarters they see Norwich North as proof that Tories can win – and hold on to – city seats.
The seat was held by Labour from 1950 until 1983 when Margaret Thatcher’s post-Falklands War, patriotic push turned the whole of Norfolk blue.
It took Tony Blair’s wave of optimism to grab it back in 1997 but after an expenses scandal led to the then MP Ian Gibson standing down, the Tories could smell blood. Enter fresh-faced twenty-something Chloe Smith.
The issues raised in the MP’s weekly surgeries vary from traffic to crime, health to Brexit.
The hope is the £178.5 million Northern Distributor Road will ease some of the traffic woes but questions remain about how a planned influx of houses – and therefore people – could impact services.
Already plans for 3,500 homes on Old Catton and Sprowston have caused controversy and could yet cause the next MP a headache if infrastructure is not up to scratch.
Mrs Smith currently enjoys a 4,463 majority – a small improvement on her result in 2010. Under Ed Miliband Labour believed they had a serious chance of winning this seat but few believe that to be the case this time.
Labour candidate Christopher Jones is pinning his hopes to pledges on workers’ rights, tuition fees and childcare. In a constituency where the average weekly wage sits at £440, £110 less than the regional average and £90 less than those living in neighbouring Norwich South, he is banking on voters fearing more Tory cuts and squeezed wages.
But it is UKIP’s decision not to stand that could prove decisive – most of their votes are expected to go to the Tories.
This is a seat traditionally tussled for by the big two but Liberal Democrat candidate Hugh Lanham will be hoping to gain the Remain vote with his party offering another vote on EU membership.
Green candidate Adrian Holmes and Liam Matthews, of The Pirate Party, appear unlikely to worry the main parties but will add spice to proceedings.
Adrian Holmes (Green): The former geophyicist is an experienced local politician. The Greens plan to scrap Trident to pay for health.
Dr Chris Jones (Labour): A former candidate in Broadland, Dr Jones said: “We are going into this believing we can win it.”
Hugh Lanham (Liberal Democrat): Chartered accountant Mr Lanham lives in a house he built himself in Fakenham. He is campaigning on Brexit, the environment and the NHS.
Liam Matthews (Pirate): Not a party advocating eye patches but a serious movement with MEPs in Europe. The party’s principals are privacy, freedom of speech and copyright reform. Mr Matthews, 22, said: “By just standing we can raise awareness of some of these issues.”
Chloe Smith (Conservative); Mrs Smith returned from maternity leave on the day the election was called – but even at just 35 is an old hand at campaigns. This is her fourth election battle in eight years.