By-election battle begins in Norwich

CHRIS Ostrowski's selection as the Labour candidate for the Norwich North by-election means that all the major parties now have a candidate in place. And the smart money is that the government will today.

CHRIS Ostrowski's selection as the Labour candidate for the Norwich North by-election means that all the major parties now have a candidate in place. And the smart money is that the government will today.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, who was in the city campaigning with 28 year-old Mr Ostrowski at Sparhawk School in Sprowston, yesterday became the first senior member of the government to call for an early by-election date - stating it would be fought on a 12-year government record which included falling crime in the city, the building of new schools, and the new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital which had seen waiting times fall.

Despite being the last major party to choose its candidate, and recriminations among activists locally over Dr Gibson's sacking, Labour has been boosted by an opinion poll last week seemingly showing that regardless of the woes of the government, it was only four points behind the Tories, who have kick-started their by-election campaign with two visits by David Cameron and a succession of ministerial drop-ins.

And its blunt campaigning message of 'Tory cuts versus Labour spending' is also rattling the Tories, who are pinning their hopes on voters seeing through any attempt to con the public over the reality of the nation's parlous finances.


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“It's going to be difficult but it's great that we have in Chris a young and enthusiastic candidate,” Mr Bradshaw said. “The opinion poll over the weekend showed it's neck and neck with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems can't win here.

“The Tories have foolishly committed themselves to at least 10% cuts across the board,” he added. “They have got to start telling people in Norwich how many fewer police, teachers and classroom assistants there will be.”

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The Culture Secretary insisted that the new candidate also had the backing of his predecessor. “Ian is a great friend of Norwich and has been a fantastic MP. I spoke to him today and he made it absolutely clear that he fully supports Chris.

“He wants Labour Party members and Labour voters to really get behind Chris and Ian doesn't want to sacrifice his great legacy.”

Mr Ostrowski, who works as a product manager for John Lewis in London, but will be basing himself in the city during the campaign, was previously Labour's seventh placed candidate for the region in this month's European elections.

“There will be some differences and some issues Ian and I agree on,” he said. “I thought that asking people to pay �3,000 to go to university was a huge psychological barrier and I wanted to make sure there was some clear support targeted at people.”

“This is where I joined the Labour Party and became politically active and it's a fantastic opportunity I've been given,” he said. “I'm ready now and I'm ready to fight as soon as possible.”

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