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The race for SW Norfolk

I am delighted to learn that James Tumbridge has made it through to the final stage of the selection as Conservative parliamentary candidate for South West Norfolk.

He stood in Ian Gibson’s seat in Norwich North in 2005 – recently won by Chloe Smith James Tumbridgewho makes her maiden speech tomorrow – and has kept his house in Norfolk, a county he has strong roots in having been born in Norwich.

You  may remember that James, a barrister, lost out in the finals for Mid Norfolk, despite making a dramatic transatlantic race for the seat. He unexpectedly received a message while flying to Canada that he had been selected for the shortlist and immediately flew back to the UK. His whole heart was in winning.

“I’m typing this quickly from Canada, I just bought a ticket home – BA promised it wouldn’t be that much but it cost 500 pounds! It doesn’t matter – Mid Norfolk is more important to me.”

At the time, James was up against 18 A-list candidates (he was not on the list) and did magnificently to make it to the final. His desire for a Norfolk seat has remained strong.

At the Conservative Party conference, regional political journalists expressed frustration to me at not being informed about which candidates had been shortlisted. They cited David Cameron’s pledge for transparency, while at the same the local political machinery was cloaked in secrecy. They have a fair point.

Despite this, the Eastern Daily Press has published names of six of the seven candidates who were interviewed yesterday (I believe the seventh one not identified was a former ambassador). A decision will be made at the final round on 24th October, an open meeting and ballot. I do not know the name of the candidate who was dropped, and I also understand there were eight candidates originally, but that withdrew after being selected in Yorkshire.

The other candidates who were named are:

imageDavid Rutley, a former special adviser to the Treasury and Conservative candidate for St Albans in the 1997 general election.

Therese Coffey, a Wigan-born former director for Mars Drinks UK and Tory candidate in the South East MEP election in June.

Elizabeth Truss, (left) brought up in Leeds and currently living in Greenwich as deputy director of think tank Reform. In 2005 she fought the Calder Valley seat in Yorkshire, and before that she stood for Hemsworth in 2001. I met Liz briefly at the conference and thought she was terrific when she chaired a fringe meeting.

Christine Emmett, grew up in Liverpool and has carved out an impressive business career. Her newly updated website cites her experience as buyer for the Marks and Spencer store expansion plan, managing £450 million of procurement for the Channel Tunnel project and a range of public service work including a role as Non-Executive Director of University Hospitals in Leicester.

Clare Whelan, (right) a Conservative councillor for Thurlow Park ward in the London borough of Lambeth and who was also a candidate for the MEP elections in Clare Whelanthe Eastern region. I worked with Clare during the last Euro election and again, she is an excellent candidate.

James is a Tower ward councillor in London and has advised MPs on intellectual property issues, as well as providing interactive seminars for local government on scrutiny. He was also former deputy chairman of South Norfolk Association for three years.

Most excitingly for James and his wife Laura, they are expecting their first baby in November.

I believe it’s going to be a very tough and close call.

*I can sympathise with the frustration of regional political journalists who attended the conference and were naturally expecting to be invited to the Eastern Region reception. This is a great opportunity for networking among regional MPs, MEPs, parliamentary candidates and councillors, as well as party workers and supporters.

It’s important to remember that the Press are not at our beck and call simply to report on press releases we issue, and this reception was an opportunity to develop relationships and get to know to each other better.

Yet the media had to lobby hard for an invite, and not all were lucky. I arranged to meet Chris Fisher, political editor of the EDP, a very influential local paper, in advance as he had no invite. He had been refused admittance once before, despite a personal invite from Gillian Shephard MP, now Baroness Shephard.

This time there were no problems fortunately, and barely had we stepped into the room when I introduced him to newly elected MEP Vicky Ford who expressed delight at meeting Chris and seized the opportunity to talk about a project she is working on with one of our parliamentary candidates to gain publicity. I rest my case!

Let’s work with our regional press, and not against them.


4 Comments

  1. Any C result next May is welcome

  2. I think there will be quite a “new look” to Parliament after the next election. I wonder how many will decide not to seek re-election after today’s revelations?

  3. Chris Fisher was very very pro the war in Iraq so of course he will like the Tories.

  4. Good luck to them all, and to Chloe with the maiden speech.

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