As many of you know, I’m an East Anglian boy at heart. I was born in Cambridge and spent the first 18 years of my life being brought up in a little village in the Essex/Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border called Ashdon, near Saffron Walden.
I then spent six years in Norwich, first studying at the University of East Anglia (where I am now a Visiting Professor of politics and broadcasting, don’tcha know) and then working for the then MP for Norwich North, Patrick Thompson. I then stood for Parliament in North Norfolk in 2005 (less said about the result of that, the better…), and in 2013 bought a house just north of Norwich. We spend as much time there as possible. It’s become my refuge from the media maelstrom.
My mother was born in Bury St Edmunds, went to school in Haverhill and Felixstowe and lived for much of her childhood in Stibbard, near Fakenham. Our daytrips in our school holidays were to Hunstanton and Wells.
My father was born in Balsham, near Cambridge and spent most of his childhood in Ashdon, and then moved to Blackmore near Ongar to rent a farm. He moved back to Ashdon when he and my mother bought the farm where we grew up.
All of this is a roundabout way of proving my East Anglian credentials. Why do I do that? Because I’ve only gone and landed a weekly newspaper column with both the Eastern Daily Press and the East Anglian Daily Times! It will launch in the first week of January and appear each Wednesday.
When I left Biteback in May one of my aims was to write more. This is all part of that, and it follows a major feature I’m writing for a national newspaper which will hopefully appear in a few weeks. As I’ve commented before, I’ve never been hugely confident in my writing, but others seem to like it, so that’s the main thing. I very rarely, if ever, offer to write a column. The only time I can recall doing that was when I wrote an article on the Loan Charge for The Spectator recently. The reaction to that column convinced me I should do it more often.
The EDP and EADT are both published by Archant, who also publish The New European, which I have written for from time to time. Matt Kelly is its editor and it is he who is behind giving me this column, and I’m hugely grateful to him. I’m looking forward to working with David Powles, editor of the EDP and Brad Jones, the editor of the EADT. Matt tells me he wants me to be “provocative”, “non partisan” and relate what I write about to East Anglia. No pressure then.
These are not local newspapers, they are regional and regional newspapers are hugely important in our lives, especially in East Anglia. The EDP has always had the highest circulation of regional newspaper in the country and I hope to help it retain that pre-eminent position.
This is a homecoming in more ways than one. I had a weekly diary column in the EDP for seven years from 2005 until 2013. Rather bizarrely, it was canned just a few weeks after I moved back to Norfolk. That’s life!
I’m delighted to be returning to the pages of a Norfolk institution and just as delighted to join the pages of the EADT whose circulation is predominantly in Suffolk but also goes into Essex too.
If you are reading this and live in East Anglia, do feel free to contact me at any time with article ideas!