Shadow Chancellor launches Labour’s local election campaign in Norwich

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell speaking at The Silver Road Community Centre.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell speaking at The Silver Road Community Centre.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

He spent teenage summers working in ice cream and burger vans on the Norfolk coast, but during his return to the county shadow chancellor John McDonnell was selling something more important.

Mr McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn's closest ally, visited Norwich on Saturday to urge local Labour members to seize momentum by performing well in the local elections next month.

In front of a 70-strong audience Mr McDonnell, who grew up in Great Yarmouth, launched the party's campaign in which they will seek to retain control of Norwich City Council, and improve their number of seats elsewhere.

'I never thought we would see a socialist leader in Labour,' he said.

'This is a huge opportunity and I hope we grab it with both hands for all those people out there who need a roof over their heads, who want a job and a future for their children.

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'In the local elections we have a responsibility to deliver change.'

Mr McDonnell lived in a council house in Yarmouth between the age of six and 17, and told this newspaper he has strong links to the town.

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Brought up in a socialist family, Mr McDonnell said he was raised and educated by a Labour government which shaped his politics.

He visits Norfolk every summer and owns a boat on the Norfolk Broads at Potter Heigham.

Mr McDonnell joked that he hoped this particular visit would be the only one during which he wouldn't 'capsize or sink'.

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: 'Norwich is a key target for Labour to keep the momentum running ahead of 2020.

'We know that Catton Grove is where we have a big fight on our hands, and I want to see 2016 as the year we keep Norwich Tory-free and take seats from other parties.'

Other speakers included Alan Waters, the leader of Labour-run Norwich City Council, Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for East of England, and Chris Jones, Labour's candidate in the police and crime commissioner elections.

After the launch Mr McDonnell joined branch members as they canvassed nearby.

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