Ipswich: Local politicians concerned about UKIP factor as polling day looms
09:00 08 May 2014
This year’s election season may be dominated nationally by the European Parliament poll, but in Ipswich it is the battle for seats at the borough that is taking centre stage.
Ipswich council is the only authority in Suffolk that has elections this year – but politicians are looking to this year’s poll as an indication of how they may fare in next year’s general election.
Labour has been working hard around the town, distributing leaflets and knocking on doors.
Party agent John Cook said the party’s message seemed to be going down well – although there was some support for UKIP showing up which was probably being exaggerated because of the European election.
Last year UKIP caused a major surprise by winning one of two seats in the Whitton and Whitehouse county council division – and almost winning a Whitehouse ward by-election on the same day.
Mr Cook said special efforts had been put into trying to boost Labour’s vote in the area – and the part was hopeful Colin Wright would be re-elected in Whitehouse.
The Conservatives are also wary about the impact of UKIP in the election. Group leader Liz Harsant said her party’s vote was holding up well in marginal seats Holywells and Stoke Park.
However she warned: “We are finding areas of UKIP support, particularly in places like the Rivers estate in Holywells and we don’t know what effect that will have.”
The UKIP campaign is being led by James Crossley, who won the county council seat last year. He is standing in Whitehouse Ward.
This is the first time his party has contested so many borough seats – and the first time they have realistic hopes of seeing councillors elected in Ipswich.
He said: “We are getting a lot more interest, probably because of the European election, but it is still relatively new to many of us so we are seeing what happens.”
The Liberal Democrats are defending one seat this year – former mayor Inga Lockington is standing again in the St Margaret’s seat she has held since 1999.
It would be a surprise if her strong personal vote was not enough to keep her at the borough.
She believes her campaign could benefit from the intervention of UKIP: “I don’t think they’ll take many votes away from me, although they could hit both Labour and the Conservatives.” she said.
The Greens are fighting most of the borough’s seats – but it would be a huge surprise if they took any of them this year.
Voting for 17 seats at the borough (there is one by-election) takes place on Thursday, May 22. The results are expected to come in the early hours of the Friday morning.