Metro Mayor Dan Norris on why he wants to unseat Jacob Rees-Mogg

Dan Norris with supporters launching his general election campaign
Dan Norris with supporters launching his general election campaign -Credit:Dan Norris

Labour’s Dan Norris — who is set to battle Jacob Rees-Mogg to become North East Somerset and Hanham MP — has said there would be “a period of overlap” with his position as West of England Metro Mayor if he is elected.

Mr Norris was the MP for Wansdyke from 1997 to 2010, when the constituency was replaced by North East Somerset, which Mr Norris lost to Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg. But now he has been selected as the Labour candidate for North East Somerset and Hanham, the seat replacing North East Somerset.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after being selected, Mr Norris said: “It's the place I care most about in the whole world. Its where I grew up. [...] It’s given me a lot and I want to do more to give back to the community.”

READ MORE: Sunday Times names richest person in the South West

READ MORE: 'Concern' at school transport policy change for children with special needs

He has lived near the village of Pensford for 25 years. He said: “I understand the communities. They are all very important to me and they see things in very different ways.”

Mr Norris said: “This has been a highly marginal Labour/Tory contest for the last three decades and if people want an alternative to the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats will have to vote Labour to make that happen.”

Since 2021, Mr Norris has been the Metro Mayor of the West of England, an area including North East Somerset and Hanham. He said he had decided to try and win back his former seat after 14 years of Tory government, including the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, Theresa May’s “weak leadership,” the “lying and partying” of Boris Johnson, Liz Truss of whom he said “in record time she crashed the economy,” and the government of Rishi Sunak where “nothing works any more.”

He said: “There's 1,001 reasons and 70,000 people in the new constituency I want to help.”

Jacob Rees Mogg, left, and Dan Norris
Jacob Rees Mogg, left, and Dan Norris -Credit:Bristol Live

And Jacob Rees-Mogg, who unseated him 14 years ago? “I know him and we get on fine,” said Mr Norris. He added: “He’s my constituent and I am his.”

But he said he disagreed with the things the North East Somerset MP said. Mr Norris said: “I think he takes a keen interest in his constituency. [...] It's not that that concerns me, it's the Tory record and he has been defending that.”

He said: “We have got to get Britain’s future back.”

If he was elected, Mr Norris said he would stay on as Metro Mayor, for which his term in office runs until 2025. He said: “I think it would be totally wasteful of taxpayers money to have a byelection. [...] So I think there would have to be a period of overlap.

“The public know me and they will need to make their minds up about that.”

He said: “I’ll cross that bridge as I come to it. The people will have to decide.”

He said his main achievement in the role was the birthday bus scheme, under which people living in the West of England and North Somerset can sign up for a pass to give them free bus travel in the month of their birthday.

Mr Norris said that in boosting usership of the buses, it had helped tackle congestion and air pollution in the area. He said: “It's important to get people out of their cars [...] and its also helped those who are totally reliant on public transport in a cost of living crisis.”

But he added: “I know from being the Metro Mayor, if there wasn’t a Conservative government we would be able to do so much more.”

Buses have been a particular battleground in rural North East Somerset which was hit by a number of cuts to publicly-supported buses over a row between Liberal Democrat-run Bath and North East Somerset Council and Mr Norris’s West of England Combined Authority over who should pay for them. He stood by his position that he had been forced into the move.

He said that the government was responsible for not providing enough funding, and added that Bath and North East Somerset Council had frozen the levy it pays to the combined authority for transport, leaving him with the same amount of money for buses amid 40% inflation in the bus industry. He said: “It's not down to me that they provide the lowest levy to any metro mayor in England.”

If elected as the MP, two major issues he would fight for are children’s and animals’ welfare. Mr Norris was a child protection social worker trained by the NSPCC before he entered politics. He said: “It's something that really matters to me. [...] I have always worked to stop children being abused physically or sexually.”

He has also been a campaigner against fox hunting and is the chair of the League Against Cruel Sports. He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that when the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol in 2020, it made him think about how people in the future would think about our times.

He said: “We need to look now into the future and consider what will people in the future look back at and think we are doing badly — and I think they will look back and think that we are cruel to animals and children.”

No date has yet been set for the general election, but it is expected in the second half of this year. Opinion polls have pointed towards a Labour victory and put the North East Somerset and Hanham seat on a knife edge.

Mr Norris said: “Opinion polls are nice to take in but should never be swallowed. I fight for every last vote. I have total respect for every last voter and I believe that I and Labour still have to win the trust of the people.”