Lib Dems focus on Clarke

It promises to be an epic battle of David and Goliath proportions. One is a frontbench heavyweight, the other a diminutive local politician hoping to claim a notable scalp.

It promises to be an epic battle of David and Goliath proportions.

One is a frontbench heavyweight, the other a diminutive local politician hoping to claim a notable scalp. But yesterday, as Liberal Democrat Simon Wright pledged to stand against Charles Clarke in his Norwich South seat, he said he would not be discouraged by

the former home secretary's reputation.

The Lib Dems have identified the seat as a top target at the next general election, after coming second last year and closing the gap to 3,653 votes.

Mr Wright said: "Mr Clarke is a well-established politician and it will not be an easy campaign. But he has been a key part of the Labour administration and was personally behind the tuition fees and identity card policies so could be tarnished by association, particularly in a university area.

"I plan to fight the campaign on local issues. He has his way of doing things and I have mine. I aim to be a friendly approachable face - but I don't want to get too involved in the politics of personality.

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"I have spent most of my life in the constituency and will fight this campaign on local issues. One of my biggest concerns is the financial position of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and our local health services.

"I will campaign vigorously to protect the quality of patient care. The government must recognise that locally we are paying over the odds as one of the first areas to have a PFI hospital.

"I will also be speaking up on environmental issues as, here in Norfolk, we are on the frontline of climate change and rising sea levels.

"I will be campaigning against council tax, which is an unfair tax as it takes no account of ability to pay. It hits those on fixed incomes, such as pensioners, the hardest."

Mr Wright is a former secondary school maths teacher and was a constituency agent for North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. He is also a district councillor in North Norfolk and lives with his wife Rosalind in Eaton.

"At a time when the Conservatives A-list in causing controversy in other parts of Norfolk, I hope my local roots will work in my favour," said Mr Wright.

The Conservatives, Greens and other likely opponents are yet to announce their candidates for Norwich South.