Norwich will be a tough fight for the Liberal Democrats, says peer

Liberal Democrat campaigners welcome Baroness Shirley Williams to Norwich where she met activists an

Liberal Democrat campaigners welcome Baroness Shirley Williams to Norwich where she met activists and candidates.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Norwich South will be a tough fight, veteran Liberal Democrat Shirley Williams acknowledged as she rallied activists during a visit to Norfolk.

Liberal Democrat campaigners welcome Baroness Shirley Williams to Norwich where she met activists, c

Liberal Democrat campaigners welcome Baroness Shirley Williams to Norwich where she met activists, candidates and her former colleague Joe Stirling. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The former education secretary, who was a mentor for North Norfolk candidate Norman Lamb, said only now the coalition with the Conservatives has ended was the party really able to make the case for what they had done in government.

The former cabinet minister was also reunited with a former agent – 90-year-old Joe Stirling – who had helped her when she stood for parliament in Harwich aged 23.

'I was standing for a by-election and I was totally hopeless, I was 23. Joe got sent down by the Labour Party from headquarters because they had discovered we had made quite a stir. He organised about 25 villages for me.'

Mr Stirling, who lives on the Unthank Road, remains a Labour voter, and said he was pleasantly surprised about how much Baroness Williams remembered from the election.


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He said that he had been disappointed when she had left the party, but at a personal level things had not changed.

Baroness Williams said the polls – which currently put the party in single figures – did not reflect the strength of the Liberal Democrats in parts of country where they were established.

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'It is a very close run thing. Simon Wright has done really well. I wouldn't pretend it isn't going to be tough.'

Baroness Williams, who entered parliament in 1964, was secretary of state for education and Paymaster General, and the only woman in James Callaghan's 1976 Cabinet.

After losing her seat in 1979, she left the Labour Party in 1981 as one of the 'Gang of Four' who founded the Social Democratic Party, before becoming a Liberal Democrat peer in 1993.

She also said that the fact there were seven parties contending, made it difficult for voters to make up their mind.

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