Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Dan Norris

As part of a series on all Bristol mayoral short-listed candidates, Amanda Ramsay speaks to former MP and one time Bristol City Councillor Dan Norris.

Back in May 1997, Dan Norris was elected as Labour Member of Parliament for Wansdyke, north east Somerset. He still speaks with great pride, of securing the biggest increase in Labour’s share of the vote in the south west.

After that historic Labour landslide, Norris was re-elected in June 2001 with an increased majority over the Tories, then winning a third term of office at the May 2005 general election. He makes great play of where the Lib Dems came: “At all three elections, the Lib Dems finished a poor, distant third place.”

Boundary changes in 2010 changed things and the new north east Somerset constituency effectively became a Conservative seat, he explains. Since then he’s worked in media and communications, running his own business and becoming more involved with various charities, including Kidscape, who specialise in anti-bullying and the Snowdon award scheme, for students with disabilities.

Of the Bristol mayoralty, he has this to say:

“Our city has punched below its weight for decades. So much so that Bristol people, of all political persuasions, have become cynical about the prospect of change. It means that whenever the local media re-ignite debates about much-needed things like affordable and efficient public transport, an arena, and so on, nobody believes it can happen.

In many ways it’s this mindset that’s the challenge. Get that right, and progress on all issues can flow. We need a ‘can do’ Bristol, not the ‘can’t do’ city that too many people perceive.”

In his bid for the selection, Norris makes much reference to his experience on the national stage in Parliament, making great play of his time as an MP and minister: “We need a mayor who can negotiate with, and win the right battles against, Whitehall and Westminster,” he says.

“Our city needs a Labour mayor with the experience of the corridors of power to take on central government and win.”

In his appeal to local members for support, his platform runs along the lines of being a trusted pair of hands, able to win for Labour at the polls and then deliver in government.

He says: “as a former government environment minister I have, uniquely among the candidates, vital experience in how government operates, day to day.”

Norris’s Westminster CV includes various government roles, first as a minister in the whips’ office. His departmental experience includes being appointed parliamentary private secretary, first to Peter Hain at Northern Ireland and then for David Miliband, when he was secretary of state at the foreign and commonwealth office.

He subsequently served in the Labour government as minister for rural affairs and environment at DEFRA, working closely with Hilary Benn.

“Our party,” he says, “and our city need a strong Labour candidate, who is capable first and foremost to win Bristol for Labour. We need someone who as mayor can lead, give strong direction, bring people with them, whilst confronting and taking the tough decisions.”

In an age of television and mass media, Norris says: “Labour needs a mayoral candidate who is media savvy, but who also has the common touch, able to relate to people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures.

I’ve spent my whole life fighting for social justice, as a child protection officer, trade unionist, Bristol City Councillor, local MP and government minister.”

He talks with great self-confidence: “I have a proven record of delivery and the ability to win support for Labour from people from all backgrounds, across all Bristol’s diverse communities.”

He adds: “I’m proud of my track record, of working closely with partner organisations – public, private and voluntary sector – to deliver community projects, like the pioneering community champions scheme, and ground-breaking child protection and anti-bullying booklets: my partnership work on these projects enabled these to be produced and circulated to families completely free of charge.”

Norris’s final words to persuade members to select him are something of a rallying cry: “If Bristol is to make the most of the opportunity the mayoral position provides, we need someone determined to apply Labour and Co-operative values and ideas, to take on vested interests and those resistant to change.

“Bristol needs strong leadership to tackle transport, crime, education, housing, jobs and economic growth – especially as savage Tory government cuts bite.”

Bristol will choose their first directly elected mayor on 15 November. Labour needs someone who can both win the popular vote and then win for the city at a regional, national and international level.

Whoever wins must be capable of negotiating a new city deal, for the richest city outside London in the UK. With five candidates in the frame for Labour, the final choice will be known on 15 June.

Amanda Ramsay is a former Labour councillor and cabinet member

Labour Party candidate for mayor TULO Hustings Thursday 31 May 745pm?, open to all labour party members and political levy payers. The Brunel Room, Armada House, Telephone avenue, Bristol BS1 4BQ.

Bristol Labour party mayoral selection official hustings: Friday 8 June at the Greenway Centre, Doncaster road, Southmead Bristol BS10 5PY from 6.15pm to 8.30pm. Bristol Labour party members wishing to attend MUST or phone 0117 972 9447

Follow the Bristol mayoral debate on @Mayor4Bristol1 and find out more on Dan Norris via

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One Response to “Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Dan Norris”

  1. swatantra says:

    Norris makes an important point: ‘ … we need someone determined to apply Labour and Co-operative values and ideas, to take on vested interests and those resistant to change’. But I would add that a lot of the intransigence lies within the LP, Unions and Westminster. But he’s on the right track.

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