For years I thought that MPs were some kind of separate species, hatched in a world of Oxbridge degrees where family and work connections lead inevitably to a career in politics. I don’t come from that world (and am proud of it!)
I’ve led a varied life. I’ve worked in bars and in catering, spent a short while living in a squat and have never had much money, I even did my degree at UEA the hard way – as a mature student with a young child and scraping by on low wages from casual work.
When I caught the bug for public service, I worked in schools with young people from troubled backgrounds at risk of failing their exams and have taught disadvantaged families how to eat well on a limited budget.
A priority for Labour is to reconnect with people who feel little connection with formal politics and to encourage them to regularly use their right to vote. I’ve spent many years with people who feel this disconnection and understand that disenchantment well. Not only am I committed to doing something about that, I have the experience and track record as a local campaigner to achieve it.
Chloe Smith regularly supports Tory policies which hammer our city and its most vulnerable people and which are gutting local health and public services. But despite that, she successfully cultivates a reputation for being a ‘good local MP’ who cares about and is active in Norwich. It was arguably that perception which saved her at the General Election in June.
In 2015 when we selected a candidate who wasn’t from Norwich we couldn’t beat Chloe Smith. This year we got closer with a more local candidate. But in Norwich South, we’ve had two resounding victories with Clive Lewis who’s lived in the city since 2001.
I know that many other factors were at play in those elections and being ‘local’ isn’t the be all and end all of winning here. But it’s also true that my city has an intense sense of civic pride and that people in Norwich take a real pride in supporting ‘one of their own”.
For the next General Election, we need a Labour candidate who is firmly part of Norwich, is available to work the constituency daily because they live here, knows the local issues well and who can hit the ground running.
I have the experience and reach to effectively take on Chloe Smith. I’ve lived in Norwich for 20 years, am on the cabinet at Norwich City Council and regularly run and participate in citywide campaigns and initiatives.
And because this is my city and I use the same schools, hospitals and public services as everyone else, I know exactly what Chloe Smith and the Tories are doing to Norwich and our friends, families and neighbours. As the famous line from one of the Jaws films goes “This time it’s personal.”
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