In May 2021, people across Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire have an opportunity to elect Dan Norris as metro mayor for the West of England. The metro mayor has control over housing, planning, transport and skills for post-16 education. These issues have never been more important than during a global pandemic.
Environmental issues underpin everything the metro mayor does, from reducing CO2 emissions to improving biodiversity. Due to Dan’s background as an environment minister in the last Labour government, he is fully prepared to lead on our region’s responsibilities to cut emissions by 2030.
The metro mayor also has significant soft power to bring about positive change in the region, such as closing gender and disability pay gaps, ensuring much better support and opportunities for those who provide vital child and elder care essential, and helping build a genuinely fairer society in the West of England.
In 2017, we came agonisingly close to victory, missing out by a margin of just 4,377 votes of nearly 200,000 cast. Since then, our Tory incumbent mayor has been largely invisible at a time when colleagues like Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have taken on national profiles. We need someone who will stand up for the West of England against the excesses of this Tory government.
In many ways, the West of England combined authority (WECA) is like the UK writ small. We have four universities, two cities, numerous towns and hundreds of smaller villages. In Bristol alone, we have some of the least well-off council wards in the country and some of the wealthiest.
Of the nine constituencies in WECA, Labour holds four – all the Bristol seats. But the Tories hold the outer Bristol seats of Filton and Bradley Stoke, Kingswood and rural North East Somerset – all three of which we need to win to be in government without a significant recovery in Scotland, according to the Labour Together report from last year. Lib Dems retook Bath in 2017. In all of these constituencies, Labour has narrowly missed out or fallen away since 2010.
It wasn’t always like this. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North East Somerset seat was won in 1997, and held in 2001 and 2005, by Dan Norris under its previous configuration Wansdyke. Dan is the only person to ever win the area comprising North East Somerset for Labour. If we are to unseat Rees-Mogg at the next general election and regain the seat, the first step is to convince people that Labour can win again by electing Dan Norris as our Labour metro mayor.
With in-person campaigning impossible due to the pandemic, we have turned to phone canvassing. For anyone who has not attended a virtual phone bank, they are the closest you can get in these times to the camaraderie of a canvassing session. We’ve also found that people appreciate being contacted by Labour during this time, if for no other reason than it gives people a chance to talk to someone new.
These virtual phone banks have been a great opportunity, not just to speak to voters, but for Labour members to come together and share their thoughts. We’ve been joined by deputy leader Angela Rayner and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire because the party nationally and locally are united behind a desire to win this election. If you’d like to help us win, and in doing so take some of the first steps in the South West to a Labour government, please come and join us!