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General Election 2024: James Bagge says ‘South West Norfolk deserves better’ as he plans to topple Liz Truss

He has been touted by many as the most likely to replace Liz Truss as South West Norfolk’s MP - but how does James Bagge think he will fare on election night?

“I have no idea,” he says.

“I hope I win for the constituency, not for me. I'm 71 - frankly, I could go off and and enjoy myself, but I'm that sold on this constituency and the people in it. That's why I'm doing it.”

James Bagge believes he is best placed to beat Liz Truss in the general election
James Bagge believes he is best placed to beat Liz Truss in the general election

Mr Bagge, a former high sheriff, quit as a deputy lieutenant for the county to pursue his political campaign, announcing at the start of this year that he would stand as an independent candidate.

He and his canvassing team have been out every day since, helped by a group of supporters which is more than 100-strong - while signs bearing his face are now dotted around the area, including along the A10.

Born and bred in the area, Mr Bagge believes South West Norfolk needs “someone committed to the constituency” to represent it - and does not believe Liz Truss has been doing the job effectively.

Towards the tail end of last year, this inspired him to start a series of village hall meetings with a slogan of ‘Should I Stand?’

Back in 2010, he was a member of the ‘Turnip Taliban’ - a group of Tories in South West Norfolk who voted against Ms Truss becoming the area’s MP back.

Speaking exclusively to the Lynn News this week, Mr Bagge says: “You might say, ‘Well, you're just saying I told you so’. Well, yes, I am. I can't deny it.”

He argues that Ms Truss has failed at three levels - locally by putting “her own ambitions ahead of the interests of her constituents”, nationally as a government minister, and as Prime Minister.

Now, he is calling on voters to select him as the next best candidate.

“Absolutely, I am the right person,” he says.

“I look like a conservative, I sound like a conservative, but I am independent. If I’m a conservative at all, I'm right in the middle centre.”

Among others, Mr Bagge faces competition from Labour candidate Terry Jermy. However, he argues that many current Tory voters will find it difficult to switch to their arch rivals - and also believes Mr Jermy, who is the vice chair of Breckland Council, would be too “steeped in party politics”.

Also up for election are Lorraine Douglas of the Communist Party of Britain, Josie Ratcliffe from the Liberal Democrats, and Pallavi Devulapalli of the Greens.

The Heritage Party’s Gary Conway, Earl Elvis Of East Anglia from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party and Tobias McKenzie from Reform UK make up the list.

“If you're thinking about constituents’ interests, you've got your Labour government. That’s pretty much a done deal,” Mr Bagge says.

“Now, if you want A) to be rid of Liz Truss and B) to have somebody who is a good local champion for five years - I'm not going to be here forever - I am the best bet.

“I'm Terry Germy’s best friend - he wouldn't stand a prayer if I wasn't standing, and we would just let Liz Truss back in.

“So I'd say to Terry Jermy: ‘Back off’ if our real thoughts and real cares are about this constituency being properly represented.”

So we know that Mr Bagge believes he is best placed to replace Ms Truss - but what changes would he bring to the area?

When speaking to the Lynn News, it was clear how important he feels it is to have adequate infrastructure in place to keep up with new homes being built.

A recent conversation with a bricklayer has stuck with him - he was told that in 28 years, the man has helped to build thousands and thousands of houses, but only one school.

Mr Bagge therefore wants to ensure schools, GP surgeries and dentists are put in place to keep up with a growing population.

Meanwhile, having been chair of trustees at the Swan Youth Project in Downham, he is aware of young children suffering with mental health issues because schools are often unwilling or unable to tailor to their needs.

He would therefore like to provide more opportunities in the area for children who are not as strong academically as others.

He differs to Mr Jermy by disagreeing with Labour plans to introduce a 20% tax on private school fees, which has contributed to Downham Prep School announcing its closure.

In terms of Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, he fully supports the rebuild - but is disappointed that “the train has already left the station” in terms of it taking place on the current site, rather than elsewhere.

He believes another site with better transport links could have been chosen.

So those are his key aims - but what would the former lawyer bring personally to South West Norfolk?

He says: “Energy, enthusiasm, an inquiring mind, professionalism, an ability to argue a case - to research a case, which was my whole professional career.

“People do ask this question: ‘What influence are you going to have nationally?’ The answer to that is certainly no more, no less influence than somebody sitting on the backbenches in opposition, or indeed somebody sitting on the Labour side on the backbenches, because they just do what they're told to do.”

Mr Bagge insists that if he emerges victorious on July 4, it will send a “resounding message” back to Westminster and create “headline news”.

He adds: “That message will be, ‘Don't impose candidates on constituencies thinking they have an entitlement just to be voted back in because they happen to be a member of a particular party’.

“No, South West Norfolk said no. We want somebody who will represent us both here in Norfolk and in Westminster.”

Mr Bagge has pledged to not pursue a ministerial career if he is elected - and he would only “cosy up” to people in Westminster if it helped South West Norfolk.

Over the next few weeks, he will continue to knock on doors around the area as well as attend various hustings events.

For now, however, he has one final message for voters.

“South West Norfolk deserves better.”

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