Dan Norris, a prominent British Labour Party politician, has established a multifaceted political career with a strong emphasis on matters related to the environment and rural affairs. His political journey commenced in the 1980s.
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Dan Norris’s Early Life
Dan Norris was born in London on January 28, 1960, to parents June Norris and David Norris. June Norris, his mother, was an active member of the Labour Party and played a significant role as a candidate for the Northavon constituency during the general elections of 1983 and 1992.
His father, David Norris, had a career as a sales manager and social worker. Norris received his education at Chipping Sodbury School and later attended the University of Sussex, where he earned a master’s degree in social work.
Before entering politics, he worked as a child protection officer and a teacher, having received training with the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).
Dan Norris’s Early Political Career
Dan Norris began his political career as a councilor on Bristol City Council, representing the Brislington West ward, serving from 1989 to 1992 and then from 1995 to 1997.
He was also a councilor on Avon County Council from 1994 to 1996. Additionally, Norris was a member of the GMB trade union, indicating his early engagement in labor and workers’ rights issues.
Dan Norris’s Parliamentary Career
During his time in parliament, Norris made significant contributions to child safety. He co-authored a book on its prevention and collaborated on creating, producing, and distributing a brochure titled “Don’t Bully Me.”
This informative resource offered practical guidance to children across the United Kingdom in handling bullying. Dan Norris assumed a range of diverse roles throughout his tenure in parliament.
Notably, he undertook the responsibilities of an assistant whip for the Treasury, a position he held from June 2001 to June 2003.
During the next stage of his political odyssey, Dan Norris assumed a pivotal role as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Peter Hain, who served as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
This influential position in his career extended from May 2006 to June 2007. Following this tenure, he transitioned to a new role as PPS, this time to the esteemed Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, maintaining this position until January 2009.
A momentous milestone in his political career arrived in June 2009 when he took a significant step forward by securing his first ministerial appointment.
In this capacity, he undertook the vital role of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.
Within this role, his primary focus was addressing rural affairs and environmental concerns, marking a noteworthy progression in his political journey.
Throughout his parliamentary journey, Dan Norris became renowned for his active engagement in the campaign against fox hunting, passionately advocating for its outlawing.
A symbolic moment in this campaign occurred on the final day of legal fox hunting in 2005 when Norris was pelted with eggs by supporters of the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt.
This incident was captured live on regional television news, making a lasting impression on his advocacy. In the 2005 general election, Norris’s lead over the Conservative opposition narrowed to 1,839 votes.
Subsequently, due to modifications introduced by the Boundary Commission for England, the Wansdyke constituency was dissolved before the 2010 election.
In response, Norris chose to contest the North East Somerset seat, an area encompassing much of the same territory. However, he faced defeat in this endeavor, as the Conservative candidate Jacob Rees-Mogg emerged victorious.
Dan Norris’s Later Career
Following his defeat in the 2010 general election, Dan Norris worked for David Miliband in his unsuccessful bid for the Labour Party leadership.
In May 2012, he was shortlisted as a potential Labour Party candidate for the Bristol mayoral election but did not secure the nomination. By 2016, he had become the Head of Operations for the Russell Group of Universities and ventured into running businesses.
Dan Norris has been vocal about issues within the Labour Party, particularly regarding its handling of antisemitism. He expressed concerns about the party’s leadership and approach to opposing racism, specifically when directed at Jewish people.
In 2004, Dan Norris received an appointment to the board of the Snowdon Trust, a charitable organization dedicated to assisting students with physical disabilities in their pursuit of education.
Additionally, he took on the role of an ambassador for the children’s charity Kidscape. Furthermore, he demonstrated his commitment to animal welfare by serving as a trustee for the League Against Cruel Sports, where he eventually assumed the chair position in October 2022.
Mayor of the West of England
Dan Norris’s political journey led him to become the Mayor of the West of England in May 2021, a role he assumed after winning the West of England mayoral election.
His candidacy was officially announced in November 2020, and he secured the Labour Party’s nomination. Norris campaigned on various issues, including gaining more powers and funding from the central government and establishing a “Green Recovery Fund” to create jobs through investments in home retrofitting, tree-planting, flood and drought defenses, and renewable energy.
Upon taking office as the Mayor of the West of England, Norris focused on various initiatives and decisions. Embracing a regional approach, Dan Norris advocated including North Somerset and specific regions within Somerset to join the combined authority.
His dedication extended to securing additional funding for these areas, emphasizing the importance of their participation. During his tenure as Mayor, Norris made significant decisions to shape the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).
In a pivotal move, he exercised his veto power during his inaugural public meeting by rejecting a proposal to review the operational framework and decision-making processes of WECA. His stance was rooted in the belief that a more ambitious approach was needed to drive the region’s progress.
Furthermore, he launched initiatives to bolster the creative and food industries, strengthening the region’s economic and cultural vitality.
The UK government allocated substantial funds to WECA for public transport improvements in its October 2021 budget. These funds were primarily directed toward enhancing bus services, including a park-and-ride scheme near the M32 strategic corridor.
There were disputes over the Mayor’s powers, particularly his ability to veto alternative proposals involving North Somerset Council. This disagreement led to delays in spending decisions, prompting the appointment of a mediator to resolve the issue.
Norris has addressed various regional and environmental issues throughout his tenure, including developing a Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) to guide significant planning decisions.
The SDS was intended to shape the direction of development until 2041 and required extensive public consultation and examination by the Planning Inspectorate.
In March 2022, Norris spoke out about the greenbelt in the region, advocating for limited changes to extend urban areas in specific places while maintaining the overall greenbelt area.
The disagreement with the South Gloucestershire Council regarding the proposed amount of new housing in the SDS further complicated the development of the strategy.
Norris advocated for various regional initiatives, including seamless public transport systems, pedestrianization schemes, and support for staff diagnosed with terminal illness.
His tenure as the Mayor of the West of England demonstrated his commitment to regional development, environmental issues, and the well-being of the community he served.