I’m knocking on doors in my city and I’m not hearing much talk about Brexit

Norwich skyline
Mark Randall

When Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson visited my marginal constituency of Norwich North, where the Conservatives hold a slim majority of 507 votes, his message was a simple one: Let’s get Brexit done. The prime minister soon discovered, when his carefully choreographed visit was interrupted by an angry parent regarding social care charges for her daughter, following changes to the minimum income guarantee, that the election in Norwich North is far from simple.

Not much Brexit on the doorstep

Like all Labour activists knocking on doors, I hear my share of smears regurgitated from our right-wing press. Yet despite our constituency voting 57% to leave in 2016, it’s often not Brexit that voters talk about; instead, it’s other issues on their minds. We’re a constituency that has recently had all of our Police Community Support Officers cut at a time when county line drug dealing has risen significantly. We’ve lost all but one of our Sure Start children’s centres. Nearly all our secondary schools have been converted to academies. Our local NHS Mental Health Trust has been plunged into special measures three times. And our nearest general hospital is reporting a waiting list for operations so severe that the hospital board is discussing whether services are being pushed to “unrecoverable positions”. Norwich has the second highest level of drug-related deaths in the country and is a rollout city for Universal Credit, with an accompanying rise in homelessness and 32.4% of children living in poverty.

We have affluence and abject poverty side by side. Simply by crossing Harvey Lane, you can pass from one of the 10% most deprived areas of England, to one of the 10% least deprived areas. UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are all standing candidates and picking off votes here and there. In 2017, the two main parties together took nearly 95% of the vote. As part of Nigel Farage’s promise to Johnson, the Brexit Party is not in this race. This seat is not an easy win for either main candidate but on polling day it will either be the incumbent Conservative MP Chloe Smith or Labour’s Karen Davis elected to Parliament.

The fight is on

The fight is on for the soul of Norwich North. As a campaigner with a strong record of being front and centre in the many local fights to save our services, Davis is putting up a strong challenge and is easy for supporters to rally behind. Our canvassing teams have been swelling with activists all motivated for different reasons. I am a nurse working in the NHS mental health service and I have seen first-hand the death and devastation that has been wrought upon the most vulnerable in our society. It is anger at this unnecessary suffering and brutality that drives me to turn out and campaign in all weather. But it’s also the hope for a transformative socialist-led Labour government, with a program delivering solutions to the real issues that keeps me going. As Boris Johnson found out, in the key marginal of Norwich North, this is not a Brexit election.

Featured image via Flickr – Keith Time

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  • Show Comments
    1. As a constituent of Norwich North, I and others are desperate for a labour win and Karen Davis as our new MP.
      In recent years we have had no representation in parliament under Tory Chloe Smith who has only been noticeable by her absence. She has ducked the public by refusing to hold surgeries, declining every opportunity for debate and snubbed the the local (non party political) Norfolk Against Universal Credit campaign. – the only local politician who has not responded to the invitation to discuss the problems with the disastrous Benefit.
      Norwich North has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country, with thousands of people depending on food banks for survival, and our schoolchildren having to be fed during school holidays by Unite the union community members.
      Yet, we have seen no sign of Chloe Smith in years, except now, when the election campaign started. Suddenly her and her keyboard warriors have appeared to fight their campaign from behind Face Book adverts, making sure to keep well clear of the public and voters.
      It’s time for Real Change in Norwich North!

    2. It seems the true meaning of the Leave Campaign then is a vastly reduced safety net for the unfortunates who have been caught up in life and stranded by the Tory’s failed Policys.
      Its hard to imagine why any Tory would show up to vote given the Conservative Vision has been supplanted by Boris’s Party who kicked out 21 of the old stalwarts. Even John Major won’t vote for the Pals Of Boris.
      A serious rift.
      I’d say it may be noticeable in this election that few Tories will be excited to show up and vote at all.
      Many deciding to simply stay home.
      A deciding factor in the election it may well turn out to be.

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