The District Council elections in North Norfolk are now in full swing, or as near to ‘full’ as any swing is possible in this rather quiet area. My vote this time will be in the Stody Ward. In previous elections my area was known as Glaven Valley: I stood as the Labour candidate in 2015 going down to a humiliating defeat. The boundaries may have changed but the prospects, in one of the most rural swathes of Norfolk, remain unremittingly dismal.
Someone else is standing as the Labour Candidate this time, and he has already secured my postal vote – irrespective of my views on the national leadership of the Party. We do however appear to be witnessing a determined fight between the LibDems and the Conservatives reflecting a battle for overall control of the Council. Both groups are fundamentally non-political, indeed often anti-political. The main issue that seems to be exciting local passions is the fate of the Sand Martins at Bacton beach: the birds were prevented from nesting on the cliff-side by nets erected by North Norfolk District Council in an attempt to attempt to combat cliff erosion. Their fate made the national news and the Council swiftly moved the nets.
The local LibDem flier that I received was predictably bland. The Conservative leaflet was far more forthright and even ventured into politics “The Liberal Democrats are supporting a campaign to oppose Brexit and hold another referendum, disregarding the will of the British people. We cannot risk sending an endorsement of their divisive politics”. Quite what the District Council can do about this I don’t know, but for a Tory to talk about divisive politics over Brexit merely underlines the adage that criminals always return to the scene of their crime.
However something else in the Tory leaflet attracted my attention. Our local candidate’s personal statement on the back page of a generic publication began “I’m a working class man who is passionate about creating opportunities for others…”. I would not have expected such self-description: most of our local Tories like to pretend to be toffs. All was explained when the candidate came to my door. We had a most unusual encounter: in fairness to the man I was deliberately provocative.
I began by reminding him of the mass defection of previously elected local Tories to form an Independent Group on the Council before going on to his motivation. He told me that he had been brought up on a Council estate in West London; I responded by telling him that I too was brought up on a Council estate – in my case in South Wales. He rather lost the thread by asking me why I was living in a nice big house in a nice village and not in Wales and then advanced his view that it was because Wales was a Labour area and “Labour areas are sh***oles”.My assertion that we had retired to Norfolk because of my wife’s family connections, and also I liked it here, did not seem to placate him in any way. His next question was “why aren’t you standing for the Council here – why are you standing in North Walsham?” Clearly he had me confused with someone else. I am not standing anywhere but have had letters published in the local press. North Walsham does however offer the best prospect for Labour and he proceeded to describe this attractive market town as another ‘sh***ole’ – evidently this is one of his favourite expressions.
The encounter was as intriguing as it was revealing. I do not want to be too unfair to our Conservative candidate as doubtless he has personal aspirations that are well intentioned. Our exchange did however remind me that class politics and class prejudice are alive and well: they are simply taking a different form up here.
leftyoldman blogs will appear occasionally as the Brexit battle continues and the shape of post Brexit politics emerges. If you would like to receive email notification of future blogs, please press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above. I continue to tweet at @eugrandparents.