The places the 2017 general election forgot – why vast swathes of rural Norfolk have been ignored by the political establishment

A ballot box. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A ballot box. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

So it is election time once again, where the leaders of our political parties are battling for their ideas and policies to get a hearing.

Prime Minister Theresa May during a visit to the International Aviation Academy in Norwich.
Picture:

Prime Minister Theresa May during a visit to the International Aviation Academy in Norwich. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Except in some parts of rural Norfolk, where you could be forgiven for thinking there isn't a general election going on at all.

Don't get me wrong – local candidates, of all political parties, are trying their hardest to meet voters in their constituencies and make their case.

The same cannot be said of their national leaders however who, regardless of which party they represent, seem to have forgotten that some parts of Norfolk even exist.

While the likes of Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Amber Rudd have all visited Norwich to press the flesh with voters, very few – if any – front-ranking politicians have deemed it necessary to come to South Norfolk and West Norfolk.

The general election is on June 8. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The general election is on June 8. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017


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Or if they have, I haven't been aware of them – which, as editor for the EDP in those areas, would be somewhat unusual, particularly given the average politician's desire for publicity.

Justice secretary Elizabeth Truss is perhaps one exception – but then her constituency is South West Norfolk, right in the heart of the county.

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It all makes an amusing change from the 2015 general election, when I was covering the marginal seat of Waveney in my previous role as editor of the Lowestoft Journal.

There, senior politicians – particularly from the Conservatives, but also Labour – couldn't get enough of the place, love-bombing the constituency with visit after visit in the months before the poll.

Andrew Papworth. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

Andrew Papworth. Picture: MATTHEW USHER - Credit: Archant

We had Philip Hammond, then foreign secretary, the ex-chancellor George Osborne, multiple visits from transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and good few visits from Ms Truss for good measure.

David Cameron, then prime minister, even walked down the main high street and popped into The Journal and EDP offices for a chat.

If I was expecting something similar in my new role, I have been left sorely disappointed.

Of course, we have to understand that a general election campaign puts demands on our political leaders to visit places all over the country, in amongst a constant barrage of interviews, speeches and debates. With the best will in the world, we cannot expect them to get to everywhere.

Although it sounds cynical to some, most people would also understand that politicians are naturally going to target the seats they think they are most likely to win or lose. That's just electoral politics.

But the attention political leaders give marginal seats compared to those deemed safer or out-of-reach electorally is striking.

The seats in South Norfolk and West Norfolk may seem more predictable than elsewhere but that doesn't mean politicians shouldn't be accountable to people in those areas.

Just because they live in a different part of the world doesn't mean they don't deserve to have a chance to put their questions direct to the top.

So if Mrs May, Mr Corbyn, Tim Farron, Paul Nuttall or Caroline Lucas want to visit, they're welcome. My colleagues and I will have our notepads at the ready.

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