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General Election 2024: Rob Colwell says he has ‘huge opportunity’ to oust Conservatives from North West Norfolk

A Liberal Democrat candidate is aiming to take advantage of a “huge opportunity” and emerge victorious at next month’s general election.

Rob Colwell has been at the centre of his party’s rise in the area in recent years, having been elected as a councillor for the Gaywood area in 2021.

He describes himself as the “only genuinely local person of the three main parties” standing in North West Norfolk, although Conservative candidate James Wild did grow up in the vicinity.

Rob Colwell, the Liberal Democrat councillor for North West Norfolk
Rob Colwell, the Liberal Democrat councillor for North West Norfolk

Labour candidate Tim Leaver, meanwhile, insists he knows the area very well despite being based in London - and his wife grew up in Lynn and Hunstanton.

But Mr Colwell believes his passion for local issues gives him an advantage heading into what will be his second general election, having also stood back in 2019.

He works as a solicitor in Lynn, specialising in family, children and separation cases.

He was confirmed as the Lib Dem candidate back in January this year, and has made a point of trying to speak to as many people as possible in a “back to basics” approach.

Speaking to the Lynn News, he said: “People have said, ‘Rob, no politician has actually knocked on this door in over 40 years’. So I think people were were surprised to see me, but really really enjoyed it.

“I think people are ready for a bit of a change to politics, really.

“I like sticking up for my patch - it's where my friends, my family, my neighbours are.

“It's been really good to see the improvements in Gaywood over that time, and it just really feels that the Liberal Democrats are on the up with all of these by-election wins. We can't stop winning - it's been brilliant.”

When voters head to the polls next month, Mr Colwell will be aiming to topple Mr Wild first and foremost.

He will also be up against Mr Leaver, Green candidate Michael de Whalley, and Phil Walton of Reform UK.

Mr Colwell says he is feeling confident due to the high volume of supportive emails and messages he has received - but stresses he will not become complacent.

He was a regular protester in the Save the QEH campaign group which fought for a new hospital in Lynn, and he now says he is “annoyed and upset” that work has yet to start.

“I want to be an absolute champion fighting day in, day out for the NHS and for social care. I think it will be one of my main aims,” he says.

“I'm also very keen on issues around the environment. That was one of the things that also got me into all of this.

“During lockdown, the wife and I reconnected with nature. We were going on these walks and I saw what was happening to the Gaywood river and the state that it's in.

“We used to have a Blue Flag at Hunstanton - I remember as a kid, my parents used to take me there. I wouldn't let my family anywhere near that water, and people say they don't even let their dogs in it.”

Mr Colwell stresses that he is very much against plans to build a flood barrier, deep sea port and a road to link Norfolk and Lincolnshire across The Wash.

He also says that with the cost of living crisis “still well and truly with us”, he wants to support people being forced to work second jobs to make ends meet and pay their bills.

Meanwhile, he has paid tribute to volunteers in North West Norfolk and has pledged to tackle problems with malnutrition in young children.

As well as that, Mr Colwell slams the “absolutely shocking” state of dental services in the constituency, and says he would plan to have dental schools set up here to allow local people to train.

In the short term, he wants to see short-term initiatives put in place involving dental professionals visiting schools and teaching youngsters how to take care of their teeth - and would support scrapping VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“I think people are screaming out for change, and that has been evident ever since I became the first Liberal Democrat to be elected in decades in 2021,” he says.

“There is change coming. There's a lot of voter apathy out there. People are angry with politicians.

“They feel they don't know who to trust, and that's why I think that we need to go back to how it used to be - where you elect someone from your local area that goes to Parliament, that goes to fight and vote in the best interests of local people, not how their multimillionaire backers tell them to vote or being whipped.

“I've been a Lynn lad since I was five years of age, so I know the issues that are in our community. I've got the contacts, I know the people. I want to be a strong local voice - I want to stick up for North West Norfolk.”

After being nominated to stand at the start of the year, Mr Colwell made it his mission to knock on all 41,000 doors in the area in a bid to speak to as many people as possible.

The election being called for next month has made that impossible - but he has still managed to make it to around 14,500 of them.

While doing so, he says he has had lifelong Conservative voters tell him that they “can’t do it again” - and he is confident that he can take advantage of the situation.

“To me, this is a huge opportunity, and I am really excited that there's a possibility that finally North West Norfolk might be electing a local person to represent us,” he says.

“I'm not pretending we've got all the answers, but I want to listen - and I think people generally want to know that if, God forbid, they've got a problem, they know that someone's actually going to bother to listen, make contact, even turn up at their home and try and work out a problem and an answer to it.

“I just hope that people see that and my energy and dedication.”

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