Norfolk County Council leader Cliff Jordan stands by ‘also-ran’ claims about his own party’s MPs
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The leader of Norfolk County Council has said he stands by extraordinary comments in which he branded some of his own party's MPs as 'also-rans' who do not work hard enough to help the county.
In a remarkable attack, Conservative Cliff Jordan said he was 'fed up' with MPs who 'run down' Norfolk.
He specifically criticised South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who, as chief secretary to the treasury has a key role over funding for local government, and said he had only once met his own party's chairman, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis,
He said he had never met Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis, that Norwich North Conservative MP Chloe Smith was difficult to get hold of and North Norfolk Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb criticised 'incessantly'.
Yesterday's interview with Nick Conrad on BBC Radio Norfolk began with Mr Jordan, this month re-elected unopposed as leader of the Tory group at County Hall, debating local government reorganisation with South Norfolk leader John Fuller. But it veered off into questions of whether Norfolk's reputation with central government has been tarnished.
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Mr Jordan then attacked the county's MPs for not supporting him.
He said: 'Our MPs need to back us a lot harder than they have been. They have been a lot in the shadows, a lot of criticism and I get really fed up with them, because they cost us Norfolk people a lot of money.'
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Mr Jordan was complimentary of George Freeman, who he described as 'brilliant' and had kind words for Keith Simpson and Henry Bellingham, however, others came under fire.
He said: 'I have only met Brandon Lewis once in my life. Liz Truss is alright, but she runs Norfolk down too much.
'I have never met Clive Lewis. He has never been anywhere near the county [council] at all. He is not interested.
'I invite MPs to the County Hall on a regular basis and the people that usually come are Keith Simpson and Richard Bacon.
'I am hacked off because I am working really hard to bring Norfolk up. Somebody has got to tell them 'up their game'. You are not good enough.'
It is understood Mr Jordan's comments are likely to lead to a complaint to Tory head office. Last night he said he stood by every word.
What Mr Jordan said
Following a discussion about whether Norfolk turning down the devolution deal had harmed the county's reputation, in which South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said it had, Radio Norfolk presenter Nick Conrad asked Cliff Jordan: 'On this idea that our reputation has been tarnished in the capital, what would you say?'
Cilff Jordan: 'Well, I'm not aware of that. It was not good when I first became leader, but I've been down and spoken to a lot of secretary of states and so forth and I can always get in touch with them, so they are all speaking to me, so I don't come across that.
'What I do come across, we need to up our game, he [John Fuller] is right there. Our MPs need to back us a lot harder than they have been. They have been a lot in the shadows, a lot of criticism and I get really fed up with them, because they cost us Norfolk people a lot of money.'
NC: 'Our MPs?'
CJ: 'Yes, our MPs cost us a lot of money. They need to earn their corn.'
NC: 'Who is not earning their corn?'
CJ: 'Well, I don't believe overall they have been doing that, I think they have been knocking Norfolk for too long and I'm just fed up of listening to them.'
NC: 'Are you not getting enough support from our MPs?'
CJ: 'Well, no, I don't get a lot of support. I do get support off one or two, but not all.'
NC: 'Who is supporting you?'
CJ: 'George Freeman is brilliant. He really is brilliant. He really is at top on his game. Um, Keith Simpson is good and Henry Bellingham is good. But the rest are also rans. Chloe [Smith] is good in Norwich, but she's very difficult to get hold of, she's a very busy lady, so I set her to one side, because if you did get the chance to get her, yeah, fine, but the rest might as well not be there.
NC: 'What about Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the party?'
CJ: 'Never met him. Only met him once in my life and that was at the Norfolk showground and he, he, nah.'
NC: 'Liz Truss?'
CJ: 'Liz is alright, but she knocks Norfolk too much. She runs Norfolk down too much and I'm just jarred off with the way she runs Norfolk down. You know she does it, everyone else knows she does.'
NC: 'Richard Bacon?'
CJ: 'Well Richard is into housing and that side of it in South Norfolk. I haven't really needed to call on Richard for much, so I can't really say.'
NC: 'And, in fairness, the other two MPs, Norman Lamb?'
CJ: 'Well Norman is Norman [laughs]. You couldn't say he don't criticise. I mean, he criticise incessantly.'
NC: 'And lastly, but not leastly, Clive Lewis?'
CJ: 'Never met him.'
NC: 'You've never met Clive Lewis?'
CJ: 'Nope. Never been anywhere near the County at all. He's not interested.'
NC: 'Have they asked to meet you?'
CJ: 'Nope. Norman Lamb has, I've met him.'
NC: 'But you're the leader of Norfolk.'
CJ: 'I know.'
NC: 'You're in many ways the most senior and you have the biggest budget in this county and you're telling me. Well, I'm going to do this, which Norfolk MPs have you not met?
NC: Okay, which Norfolk MPs have you not met in the last 12 months? Clive Lewis?'
CJ: 'I haven't met him.'
NC: 'Norman Lamb you have.'
CJ: 'I have.'
NC: 'Brandon Lewis?'
NC: 'Liz Truss?'
NC: 'Can you write these down outside, cos I'll get lost? Henry Bellingham?'
CJ: '[Laughs} Yes.'
NC: 'George Freeman?'
NC: 'Richard Bacon?'
NC: 'Keith Simpson?'
NC: 'Chloe Smith?'
CJ: 'Yes. I've met them.'
NC: 'Alright. There's two MPs that you haven't met in the last 12 months. Okay. And dialogue between you, as leader of the county council you are saying and our MPs is not particularly fluent.'
CJ: 'Well I invite them to the County Hall on a regular basis. And the usual people who come are Keith Simpson, um, Richard Bacon.'
NC: 'Can I be honest, Cliff? I've interviewed for many, many years and I've known you for many years. You seem a bit crestfallen and a bit hacked off.'
CJ: 'I am hacked off, because I'm working really hard to bring Norfolk up. When I listen to John [Fuller] saying Norfolk is on the periphery, I don't agree with that. We're at the centre if we want to be at the centre. It's about what we want. We're in charge of ourselves. This is a great county. I'll do anything to make this county what it is. It's brilliant. It's good for families. It's good for everyone else. But I'm so fed up with people running it down and I'm having to counter that all the time and I'm sick to death of listening to them. I'm just fed up with it.'
NC: 'Fed up to the point that you question your position? Fed up to the point that you want to jack it in?'
CJ: 'No, I'll keep going. But somebody has got to tell them [the MPs] 'up your game'. Norfolk deserves better and you aren't good enough.'
NC: 'Cliff Jordan, thank you. Good to see you, as always.'
MPs hit back at Cliff Jordan's comments
Labour Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, who Mr Jordan said was not interested in county council matters, listed times he had been, including visits to County Hall.
But he said he had never been invited to a formal meeting with Mr Jordan.
North MP Chloe Smith, whom Mr Jordan said he struggled to get hold of, said her constituents could call or email her and she regularly worked with the council.
North Norfolk Lib Dem
MP Norman Lamb, said he no longer gets regular invites to County Hall and added: 'This does not give me great confidence in his stewardship of the organisation when he blasts off without checking the facts.'
Brandon Lewis has not responded, while Elizabeth Truss issued a statement supporting two Norfolk unitary councils, but did not address Mr Jordan's accusation she 'runs down' Norfolk.
What political opponents at County Hall said
Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: 'Norfolk will be open mouthed at this new low. I would expect council leaders and MPs, even if they do not get on, to be doing business with each other. The idea that the leader is not sitting down and talking to people who are not just on the cabinet, but have control over local government finances and government policy is quite extraordinary.' Dan Roper, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Norfolk County Council, said: 'When Cliff goes on the radio he is representing the council. 'Making comments like this do not just damage his own credibility, they damage the credibility of the council and Norfolk as a whole.'