Out on the doorstep with Norfolk's council hopefuls

Emma Corlett, Jonathan Emsell and Sue Catchpole out canvassing for the 2021 elections

Emma Corlett, Jonathan Emsell and Sue Catchpole out canvassing for the 2021 elections - Credit: Archant

“I don’t know, I’ve not really thought about it,” said a young woman, holding her front door in one hand and a wriggling dog in the other.    

Sue Catchpole, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Reepham, offered the woman a leaflet but the dog stopped any further discussion.     

Across my days out canvassing with candidates from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, “I’ve not thought about it” was a common response.     

I met with Ms Catchpole and her team in the Station Road car park in Reepham, an area the Lib Dems have their eye on to take from Conservative Greg Peck in the May Norfolk County Council election.    

The Liberal Democrat candidate for Reepham, Sue Catchpole, out canvassing

The Liberal Democrat candidate for Reepham, Sue Catchpole - Credit: Archant

“I’m more than hopefully,” Ms Catchpole said as we went from door to door.    

“There are certain people who are defecting from their natural conservative home and that gives us an opportunity.    

“We were not far behind the conservatives here and there are things that the conservatives have done nationally that have raised questioned with voters.”    

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While Ms Catchpole said the accusation of inappropriate lobbying in the Conservative party were cutting through to the doorstep, no one raised the issue as we went round and Mr Peck won the seat in 2017 with 16pc more votes than the Lib Dems.

The difficulties of canvassing in a covid-world were apparent across the board, with many people concerned to come out of their houses.     

Several people would only lean out of windows to speak to canvassers and you could go several houses without getting a response, particularly on the evening canvassing sessions.    

Labour’s afternoon round of canvassing, through the Town Close area of Norwich, had the greatest amount of response on the doors, which Emma Collett, the Labour incumbent, put down to people working from home.    

Ms Corlett said the response on the doors had been really positive, but added: “We are not going to win an election on what we have done here in the last few weeks, it's what we have done in the last four years.”    

Emma Corlett the Labour incumbent councillor for the Town Close area of Norwich

Emma Corlett the Labour incumbent councillor for the Town Close area of Norwich - Credit: Archant

This was highlighted by one Ampthill Road resident, who asked to be left unnamed, who said she would be voting for Ms Corlett.    

“I’m a bit conflicted because I’m not normally a Labour voter, I’m much more of a small c conservative. But I like Emma, I respect Emma,” she said.    

“We have quite a lot of crime in this area but she has been personally involved in helping with the police and setting up community groups.”    

The resident also seemed influenced by the national parties, saying she found the lobbying scandals “distasteful” and was more fond of Keir Starmer than Jeremy Corbyn.     

Regardless of which party it was or where they canvassed, everyone who responded was polite, even when they had no interest in the elections.    

Jonathan Emsell, who is running for the Crome area of Norwich for the Conservatives, said he would like to see more interest from the community.    

“I think people should even people who don’t want to take part in politics should know who they want to vote for, people should feel like [their vote] can make a difference,” Mr Emsell said, after speaking to a woman who said she would think about voting if she was free on the day.    

Mr Emsell said the key issues in the area were things like traffic and in particular the Heartsease roundabout, which he said was an unattractive entrance to Norwich.    

Conservative county council candidate Jonathan Emsell out door knocking in the Crome Ward

Conservative county council candidate Jonathan Emsell out door knocking in the Crome Ward - Credit: Archant/George Thompson

He argued the incumbent Labour administration on the city council had failed to address the issue and said it was something he wanted to work on if he was elected.   

Mr Emsell said this election had seen a reduced hostility to conservatives on the doorstep, which he said could be due to the party delivering Brexit.    

“That’s where the majority increase has come from,” he said.   

“There are some voters who are still scared to say, they don’t want to be targeted, people don’t want to be openly conservative.”    

Ms Catchpole thought it was no surprise people hadn’t thought about the election, she said: “One thing that has struck me is the number of people who are wishing the election had been postponed, just because they haven’t had a chance to think about it.    

“It’s almost a surprise that the elections are going ahead through Covid.”    

Labour placard in Town Close 

Labour placard in Town Close - Credit: Archant

However, Ms Corlett said one benefit of the election going ahead was being able to reach out to isolated people.    

She said: “One person told me I was the first person they had seen in a year other than picking up their prescription.    

“It just shows how important it is getting out and knocking on the doors - it’s essential for the community and for voters."

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