The Green Party candidate for Norwich North is Dr. Rupert Read, a Norwich city councillor and UEA lecturer who narrowly missed election as an MEP in the recent European elections.
Rupert Read said today:
“After the gloom of the economic downturn and the scandal surrounding MPs expenses, which has sullied all three main parties, the Greens are offering a fresh new approach. We want cleaner politics as well as consideration for the environment underpinning every aspect of policy.
“For the first time ever, the national spotlight will be on the Green Party in a byelection campaign and our prospects are being taken extremely seriously. The big three parties have everything to lose. The Green Party has everything to gain.”
Dr Read, who has previously won plaudits for his Party’s ‘Clean Campaign Pledge’, recently saw a huge expansion of the Green vote in the east of England after his campaign for the European elections and came within 1% of securing a seat.
Green support peaked strongly in their emerging stronghold of Norwich, where the Greens came out on top with about 25% of the vote, a tremendous achievement and one which shows that the Green Party and Dr Read will be a major force in the forthcoming coming by-election. In Norwich North, the Green Party won two Council seats for the first time, giving it new momentum. (Labour won just one seat, and the Lib-Dems none at all).
NOTE: CAROLINE LUCAS MEP, GREEN PARTY LEADER, WILL BE IN NORWICH ON TUESDAY JUNE 30TH.
FURTHER INFORMATION / INTERVIEWS
Rupert Read: 01603 219294 / 07946 459066
About Norwich Green Party
• It has 13 Norwich City Councillors (Labour 15, Lib-Dems 6 Tories 5)
• It has 7 Norfolk County Councillors serving 7 of the 13 Norwich county wards.
• Norwich City Council Green Party group leader, Councillor Adrian Ramsay, is the Green Party’s national Deputy Leader and GP’s Parliamentary Candidate for the Norwich South constituency in the next General Election. In the 2009 local elections, the Green Party secured the greatest % of votes cast in the Norwich South area – and can win the Norwich South Parliamentary seat in the next General Election.
• In the 2009 European election, the Green Party secured more votes than any other party in the Norwich City Council area, gaining 25%.
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Martin Booth, former President of Norwich CLP, gives an eyewitness account of how the Labour Party debarred Ian Gibson from standing as a Labour candidate.
I have been a member of the Labour Party for 30 years and President of Norwich Labour Party for the last two. On 21st May I returned home from work to find that our Norwich North MPhad been on the local TVnews, apparently embroiled in the MPs’expenses affair. I was shocked: Ian Gibson is one of the most ethical men I have met and I could not believe that he would knowingly abuse his expenses. I found out later that the Telegraphhad warned him he would be in the paper, and he had immediately contacted the local media to answer the charges – not the action of someone who has somthing to hide.
The next morning’s Telegraph claimed that Ian had covered up the fact that his daughter and her partner were living in his flat rent free by blanking out the address of the flat in the expenses that he published in the local paper. They also said that he had sold the flat to her at a low price after the taxpayer had paid the mortgage.
I managed to speak to Ian on the Friday. He sounded really shocked and told me that he had been referred to the NEC panel (the “Star Chamber”). On the Saturday I went to see him. He explained that he had not covered up anything. MPs were told to blank out all addresses by the Fees office because of data protection. He had not charged his daughter rent because the Fees Office had advised him not to. Although he had sold the flat to her for the sum which was on the mortgage, he had only claimed for mortgage interest on the flat. He had put £30,000 of his own money, obtained by re-mortgaging his Norwich home, into the flat when he bought it (which remained for him to pay off). I thought it was obvious that he had broken no rules. He accepted my offer to accompany him to the Star Chamber hearing to show he had local sup-
I called a meeting on 29th May of all branch chairs and secretaries in Norwich North and all councillors to gauge their opinions. This meeting was 100% behind Ian, and I wrote a strong letter to the Star Chamber from Norwich North members.
The letter telling Ian he had been referred said that he was being investigated under Chapter 5 Clause C8(b) of the rules of the Labour Party. This says that if it is proved that you have breached the rules (it does not say which rules), you can have the endorsement of your candidature rescinded. The letter stressed that it was not a disciplinary hearing but just an interview, to which he could bring with him only one silent friend, in accordance with human rights.
On 2nd June we went to Victoria Street and were called into the panel at 10.40am. The panel were Cath Speight, NEC chair; Ann Black, NEC vice-chair; and Ann Lucas, an NEC member. Also present were Roy Kennedy, Director of Finance and Compliance, and a man who was not introduced but whom Ian thought was Ray Collins. Ian then asked that I be allowed to speak for the constituency, but this was not allowed. I was to be a silent friend.
Ian presented his case. From the chair, Cath Speight asked Ian how he squared the fact that his daughter could now sell the flat for a profit with a rule from the Green Book which said that Members should ensure that neither they nor their relatives should gain financially out of their expens- es. We had seen no such rule in the Green Book we had looked at. Ian answered that if he had sold the flat on the open market, he would have made a profit which he could have given to his daughter, and he could not see any difference between that and what he had actually done. After a few questions the interview ended: it had lasted 25 minutes.
Afterwards we tried to look up the rule that Cath Speight had quoted and I finally found it in the March 2009 version of the Green Book. Ian sold the flat to his daugh- ter in May 2008. There is no mention of this rule in any of the Green Books before 2009. The panel had used a rule to condemn Ian which did not exist when he sold his daughter the flat.
It was not until 6.45pm in the evening that Ian was told that his candidature had been rescinded, at the same time as it was released to the press by Victoria Street. I was furious and went onto the local media to denounce the NEC and say that the panel had been a kangaroo court. Ian Gibson is well known to be a very independently minded MPand has voted against the Government many times. I suspected that the whips had used this issue to get rid of him.
The next evening I met Ian and his wife and he decided that he would resign as MP straight away – mainly because of the effect that the whole affair was having on his family.
The next morning I woke early. Angry and unable to get back to sleep, I decided that I had to resign from the Party. I just could not stay after I had seen the way that they had destroyed such a good man as Ian. He has been a wonderful constituency MP. When you went canvassing with him, it seemed he had helped nearly every other person you met. His involvement in outside causes, from beekeepers to ME sufferers, is amazing. That the NEC could destroy him because of the poisonous writing of the Daily Telegraphand use retrospective rules to do so was just too much.
As far as I know the NEC has not told Ian what rule he actually broke, even though he has asked them. If the Green Book rule is now applied retrospectively, an awful lot of MPs will be appearing before the Star Chamber, including Hazel Blears. They will not do so: this was just a cynical exercise to look tough and get rid of a trouble-maker at the same time.
Therefore, on Friday, 5th June I announced my resignation from the Party when Ian announced his resignation as MP. I have made many excuses for the Party in the past, but I just could not make any more.
The Green Party has selected Rupert Read to be its candidate in the forthcoming Norwich North Parliamentary by-election.
At a packed meeting of 50 plus Green Party members tonight (Wed) Dr Read was selected ahead of fellow Norwich City Councillor Claire Stephenson, and former councillor Jessica Goldfinch.
Rupert Read said: “I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to represent the Green Party in a by-election in which, for the first time ever, the national spotlight will be on the Green Party and our campaign and our prospects are being taken extremely seriously”.
As well as being a Green city councillor, Dr Read (43) is also a lecturer in philosophy at the University of East Anglia.
Dr Read recently won a huge expansion of the Green vote in the east of England in his campaign for the European elections and came within 1% of securing a seat. Hundreds of supporters took an active part in that campaign, and, in the absence of the high-level funding enjoyed by other parties, the Greens are calling for similar assistance in Norwich North where they’ll be organising their first major leafletting drop this weekend.
Our three “target constituencies” are Brighton Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), Norwich South (Adrian Ramsay) and Lewisham Deptford (Darren Johnson).
Before then, the Norwich North by-election will be the first by-election where the national media take the prospects of a Green win seriously. We have a great deal of work to do, and we are asking you to swing behind this effort in a big way, as other parties (most notably the Liberal Democrats) do in similar circumstances.
Here is just one of the large number of bullish press stories that have appeared about the byelection –
The Greens’ chances of doing well in Norwich North have already been mentioned in the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, and on the BBC.
Can you help us to compete strongly in Norwich North?
We need lots of help on numerous tasks in our office and on the streets. Please come and stay with us: we can put volunteers up, it will be fun, and you can learn on the job from the expert Norwich team! Please call us on 01603 611909 if you can offer us help.
We need donations to cover our campaign costs. We need to raise £10,000 in the next month, if we are to have any chance of even beginning to compete on a level playing field with the old three Westminster parties in this vital election. We need to get the Green message heard now, and we need to build now toward getting a strong Green voice into Westminster.
Please give what you can. £20 buys 2000 leaflets for us to deliver to target voters. £250 buys an ad for us in the Norwich Evening News. £1000 buys a prime billboard location for the entire duration of the campaign.
Send a cheque now (payable to ‘Norwich Green Party’) to:
Let’s make history, startle the old parties, and give ourselves a real shot at electing the first ever Green Party MP in Norwich North …
If dirty campaigning triumphs, if we reach the point where there is no point in even trying to give the electorate accurate information, because they won’t trust any of us and so one might just as well mislead them for short-term advantage, endlessly, then we might as well all give up and go home, and the ‘clean up politics’ agenda that rightly seems so vital now in the wake of the expenses scandal will just die.
There is a better way: Let’s raise the standard of political campaigning, and vigilantly challenge practices in our own Parties and in others that fall short.