HOW ODD IT IS TO BE INTERESTING – some notes from a former political wilderness

Twice over the past few days, writer friends, who are working on features for the national press, have contacted me. What’s going on in south Norfolk? they have asked. Tell me all about the Waveney Valley. ITV News was in Bungay the other day for a profile of the area. Journalists are hanging around the market-place in Diss. The Guardian have asked voters in the area which issues matter to them.

If you know south Norfolk, all this will feel very odd to you. It is, in fact  – in a word much used in recent political commentaries  –  unprecedented.

This area has been a political dead zone for as long as anyone can remember. The Conservatives have held the old South Norfolk seat with such a vast majority that they have hardly bothered to campaign.

It is the same picture in local politics. Our district and county councils have been blue for so long that, until recently, it was hardly worth checking the result of local elections. When I was serving on the local parish council, I was struck by the air of casual entitlement that often emanated from local representatives. We don’t need your support, the unspoken message seemed to be. In fact, you’re lucky to see us.

As for Labour, they were entirely invisible.

There are two obvious factors behind the potential political earthquake in this area. The re-drawing of constituency boundaries has cut the dark blue of south Norfolk with the light green tinge of north Suffolk  – the Greens actually won a majority in the Mid-Suffolk District Council last year.

And then there’s extraordinary implosion of our exhausted, morally bankrupt government. There are few more dogged and loyal Conservatives than those who live in this area but, after a succession of prime ministerial disasters, they have all gone rather quiet. Under normal circumstances, there would be blue placards on every road. This election, I have yet to see one. I find that faintly shocking from the party that prides itself on its bulldog spirit.

Another odd thing. Labour have clearly decided that this constituency, which would seem eminently winnable , is not a key battleground seat. They have a sound candidate but are on cruise control when it comes to going after votes. But then there has always been a sense that the Labour Party is basically urban in spirit, and has neither sympathy for, nor interest in, rural communities. The Starmer Revolution seems to have made no change there.

The Greens, on the other hand, have been courting us for months. With their co-leader Adrian Ramsay standing as their candidate, they have become involved in local issues and have been fighting for every vote. It is perhaps naive of me, but I warm to a party that is making an effort. If they are interested in me, I am interested in them.

What will happen on 4th July? No one seems to know.. Some polls are suggesting, embarrassingly, that Reform will do well. This part of the country is not famous for its tolerance and inclusion, so perhaps the rise of the Faragists should not be surprising.

Undeniably, though, this is an election that in this little corner of the country is interesting, exciting even. I actually feel that my vote counts this time.

And that, around here, is a first.