Former MP Dan Norris has been selected as the Labour Party’s candidate for the West of England mayoral election taking place on May 6th next year, when he will attempt to defeat Tory incumbent Tim Bowles.
On a turnout of 41.9%, it was a closely fought selection race, with Labour in the South West of England reporting that 1,611 Labour members voted for Norris and 1,558 for rival candidate Helen Godwin.
Norris tweeted: “Thank you to all @UKLabour members from across our party who supported me to be your West of England metro mayor. My thanks too, to @helengt76 for a fair & friendly contest.
“Now the real campaign begins. In May we face the first ever Covid election, in truly uncertain times. It is a privilege to be selected as your Labour candidate.
“I know people across the West of England feel let down by the Conservatives [and] are worried about their health, education [and] livelihoods. These are tough times. I will listen [and] lead so together we can build a better future.”
Norris served as the Labour MP for Wansdyke from 1997 until the seat was abolished in 2010. This saw him lose the subsequent North East Somerset race to Jacob Rees-Mogg, now leader of the House of Commons.
During his selection campaign, he emphasised pledges on improving local transport, addressing inadequate access to skills training, meeting the challenges of dementia and reducing animal cruelty.
The ex-MP, who previously worked as a scaffolder’s assistant, factory worker and teacher, had been shortlisted for the West of England selection contest along with Bristol councillor and cabinet member Helen Godwin.
The shortlist of two attracted controversy over the summer as Labour members complained that other applicants who received more nominations were dropped – including Lesley Mansell, who narrowly lost the same mayoral race in 2017.
Critics in the party pointed out that Mhairi Threlfall and Mike Davies – contenders also not shortlisted – were Labour parliamentary candidates in the 2019 general election and are councillors.
The party rejected calls to restart the selection process, however, with the south west regional director saying that “none of the irregularities which occurred had any material impact on the final shortlist”.
Labour rules state that selection committees for mayoral selections must consider all applicants that received at least two nominations, but there is no number of nominations that grants automatic shortlisting.
Norris worked on David Miliband’s Labour leadership bid in 2010 and was a critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He was shortlisted in Labour’s Bristol mayor selection in 2012 but did not secure the candidacy.
While an MP, he served as an assistant whip for two years and was later parliamentary private secretary to Foreign Secretary David Miliband. He became a minister in 2009 in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Norris will be standing for the mayoral post against the Conservative incumbent Tim Bowles, previously a South Gloucestershire councillor, and fellow former MP Liberal Democrat Stephen Williams.