Labour selects former Sheriff of Norwich to stand in Mile Cross

A former Sheriff of Norwich has been selected to try and follow the footsteps of city council leader Steve Morphew and stand as a candidate

Mr Morphew is quitting frontline politics at the local elections after more than a decade as a councillor at City Hall.

Now Labour Party activists have selected Ralph Gayton as their candidate to fight the seat in the council elections on May 5.

Mile Cross was traditionally a Labour stronghold, but the Lib Dems have also previously held some of the three seats in the ward, while in the county council elections, last year the party was defeated by the Greens, suggesting there could be all to play for in the forthcoming contest.

Mr Gayton, a former trade union official, who was previously national president of NALGO, one of the unions now making up Unison, was Sheriff of Norwich for 1996/97.

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He has recently posed questions at Norfolk County Council about possible funding cuts at schools in Mile Cross and Catton Grove and said he plans to speak up for the area, and speak out about cuts by the ruling Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

'I am delighted to have been selected to fight the local elections in 2011 to represent Mile Cross,' he said. 'I know that standing after Steve Morphew will be a difficult act to follow, but he is someone I will try and emulate.

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'I am Norwich born and bred and have long experience of local government in our city and a strong affinity with the problems of families and workers in the area.'

The selection comes as Conservatives in the south of the city are also cranking up their campaign machine, after appointing former councillor Antony Little as their party chairman and setting up a special election website.

Mr Morpnew announced in December that he was stepping down after 15 years as a councillor, which has included five years leading the authority, nine as leader of the Labour group, 11 years as a councillor for Mile Cross and before that four years in Nelson ward.

But the question of who will succeed him as council leader remains unclear, and last week he faced criticisms from the opposition Green Party that voters will not know the identity of his successor until after polling day.

Possible contenders to lead Labour are deputy leader Brenda Arthur and former leader Alan Waters, who is cabinet member for resources, performance and shared services.

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