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Election exclusives: Green candidate Michael de Whalley sets out vision for North West Norfolk

“The pen is mightier than the sword” for a Green candidate preparing to take on his fifth general election in the borough.

Michael de Whalley was officially put forward as the Green Party’s nominee for the North West Norfolk seat at the start of this month.

He has stood in the constituency since 2010, and has also served on the borough council since 2019 - being appointed as a cabinet member last year.

Michael de Whalley, the Green candidate for North West Norfolk
Michael de Whalley, the Green candidate for North West Norfolk

His story is an interesting one - he joined the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron at Marham shortly before 9/11, and subsequently served in Iraq in 2003.

It was his time there, where he developed the opinion that it was “a war about oil”, that persuaded him to become involved in politics.

He was a founder of the renewed West Norfolk Green Party in 2009, and at the age of 56 he is a self-employed IT consultant.

Now, ahead of July 4’s general election, he is urging voters to choose him so he can tackle local issues “without the constraints of the political party which you represent”.

Like many others, Mr de Whalley wants to ensure a rebuild of Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital goes through.

He also hopes to help employers in the area with the likes of active travel schemes and improved apprenticeship programmes, as well as providing education opportunities to attract young people to West Norfolk rather than pushing them away.

Speaking to the Lynn News, Mr de Whalley said: “There are some very considerable issues locally that need to be championed without the constraints of the political party which you represent.

“We absolutely need an advocate for West Norfolk who is not constrained by their political party.

“There is a huge amount of disaffection - that is abundantly clear. The Police and Crime Commissioner election, which was the last election, had a very low turnout, which is disappointing.

“For me, it's about giving people the confidence to vote Green and avoid tactical voting.”

Last year, when an Independent-led administration took control at the borough council, Mr de Whalley was among the councillors from the Green and Liberal Democrat groups to form a coalition of sorts which allowed it to do so.

He was subsequently made leader Terry Parish’s cabinet member for climate change and biodiversity - although with new leader Michael Beales set to reshuffle the cabinet, whether he remains in that role remains to be seen.

Mr de Whalley believes that this council administration has proven that the area benefits from cross-party politics, as well as hinting that residents are prepared to change the way they vote.

At the heart of his own personal campaign, however, remain environmental policies.

He has been involved in protesting against proposed incinerators in the area, starting the KLWIN campaign, and says the Green Party’s “informed” and “costed” approach to its manifesto is among its most appealing factors.

“It it is about having social conscience, it is about looking at politics long term,” he says.

“Governments tend to think, ‘What are we going to do in this term?’ We need to change government thinking so that it is evidence led, and that we do think much further ahead - and that comes down to some of the climate change issues which I am involved with as part of my portfolio.

“Paying less tax isn't necessarily a good thing if you can't afford to buy your weekly shopping, if you can't get the healthcare you need.

“It's that your child isn't being educated adequately, that the criminal justice system is falling apart.

“All these things require a a sensible level of taxation.”

When North West Norfolk voters go to the polls next month, they will have five candidates to choose between.

Along with Mr de Whalley, they include Liberal Democrat Rob Colwell, Tim Leaver of the Labour Party, Phil Walton from Reform, and Conservative candidate James Wild, who was elected MP for the area in 2019.

So how will Mr de Whalley, who attended Lynn’s King Edward VII school as a youngsters, go about achieving his aims if he is elected?

His time in Iraq taught him that physical activism, such as public protesting, is not always the right answer.

“If you want cross-party support, if you want to bring everybody into your way of thinking… the pen is mightier than the sword,” he says.

“It's about persuading people and getting everybody working together. You're creating momentum and overcoming inertia. Once you've got that momentum, it's unstoppable.”

And on his plans for the weeks leading up to the general election? At the heart of Mr de Whalley’s campaign is giving people “exposure to policies that are long-term and well considered”.

“It's giving people the confidence to vote Green. It's getting that discussion,” he says.

“It's giving people the option to vote and encouraging people to vote, especially the youngsters. It always concerns me that the younger generation are still not engaged in politics to the extent that they should be.

“The decisions that are being made now will have a very, very significant bearing on their future. So even if I can help add to that choice, I may not be elected, but I'm creating the conversations.

“I can understand people's dissatisfaction, but it is important to vote if you are dissatisfied.

“It is important to have confidence in moderate politics, because the solution lies there rather than moving towards the extremes.”

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