Does East Anglia need a mayor?

Shoppers out and about on London Road North in Lowestoft ahead of the lockdown. 

Shoppers out and about on London Road North in Lowestoft ahead of the lockdown. - Credit: Mick Howes

Fightback East cares not what colour rosette a person wears. Fightback East cares not about the political spats of the past. Fightback East cares not about how this region votes. 

This campaign is aimed squarely at getting the best deal for the people of this region.

Making sure that no government of the future – Labour, Conservative or any coalition – overlooks the East. 

The Fightback East manifesto

The Fightback East manifesto - Credit: Archant

Because for too long we believe this region has been an after thought. And the spend per head, disgusting under-spend on infrastructure and criminal social mobility statistics prove that point.

And a major part of why this newspaper launched Fightback East was to ruffle some feathers, we wanted to cause a stink on behalf of the East, we wanted to tell some truths to power.

The East needs to be a priority post-Covid: here's our manifesto

The East needs to be a priority post-Covid: here's our manifesto - Credit: Archant

It is working. We have had some bleating correspondence from political figures asking: “Are you suggesting I am not doing my job?”

The answer to that is usually: “No ... but wouldn’t you like some help?”

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The majority of our MPs and other leaders do want their patches to succeed. There is not some great conspiracy of sabotage aimed at the East. 

But we have been docile for too long. And now we need to come out fighting. 

One way to send a firm message of intent to Westminster would be to elect a mayor for Norfolk and Suffolk.    

It has been floated before – in fact the vast majority were behind the idea. But some feared change. If only they had known what awaited us.

Now is the time to ask the question again. 

The Conservatives nationally have always been keen and now Labour under Kier Starmer is also launching a review of how the regions could manage power.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is to lead a taskforce that will delve into the issue of constitutional reform. Part of the investigation will look into devolution for the regions. 

EMBARGOED TO 0001 TUESDAY DECEMBER 29 File photo dated 30/03/10 of former Prime Minister Gordon Brow

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former health secretary Andy Burnham (left). Andy Burnham is now mayor of Greater Manchester. - Credit: PA

One northern metro mayor, Dan Jarvis said: “The commission is a significant step on the road to a better, more democratic UK.

"People in England need and deserve a better democracy as much as people in any other part of the country.”

The direction of travel is towards the East having an elected voice whose raison d’etre is the East. Imagine if the East had a figure akin to Manchester’s Andy Burnham or Birmingham’s Andy Street? 

Of course we would be on their back as well. But at least if they were not delivering the people could decide and give them the boot at the ballot box. 

As it stands too many small fiefdoms are in play. We need to plan beyond the boundaries of villages and towns.

The freeport plan which is focussed on Felixstowe and Harwich yet will positively impact the whole of the East from Cromer to Southwold highlights that. 

Note to Mr Brown: Fightback East would happily send some proof of the damage that has been done and the bright future we believe could be ahead for the East given the opportunities.

Fightback East gains more support

Fightback East has its first cabinet minister onside.

A few weeks ago Suffolk Coastal MP and work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey got the wrong end of the stick and tried to link the campaign with her own admirable yet stuttering Kickstarter scheme. 

But now we have one. 

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has backed our Fightback East manifesto

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has backed our Fightback East manifesto - Credit: PA

Health secretary Matt Hancock initially wanted to know more about the objectives. But now he has come out in support.

“I am behind the Fightback East campaign and the drive for more support for the East Anglia as we recover from the pandemic,” the West Suffolk MP said.

“We need support in the same way that all other regions of the country will require help to be able to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

“I know how challenging this is, and how resilient businesses have been in the face of adversity. We need to do all we can to support the recovery in East Anglia for local residents and businesses.”

He talks of “drive for more support” and how the East “needs support in the same way” as other regions. It appears Mr Hancock has heard the fears here in the East that Red Wall seats will get priority. 

And big business also continues to back the struggle. 

Backing the Fightback East manifesto Julia Pyke, Sizewell C director, said: “Sizewell C supports the Fightback East campaign.

Sizewell C will be crucial in Suffolk’s post-Covid recovery, by providing thousands of well-paid jobs and opportunities for young people though 1,500 apprenticeships.  

“The boost to the economy will be realised through its entire supply chain, which could play a vital role in improving local lives and livelihoods.

“Suffolk, Norfolk and the East a huge contribution to make, particularly in the energy sector, and we will make sure, as we talk to Government, we push to unleash its potential and help build a better future.”

The East’s voice is getting louder by the day.