Why all the party workers are heading to Ipswich for 2019 General Election
PUBLISHED: 16:30 18 November 2019
While the 2019 General Election is happening across the country, in this area the battle is very much being concentrated in the marginal seat of Ipswich.
Over the weekend party volunteers from across Suffolk and north Essex moved into the town to support both Labour and Conservative campaigns in the town.
Tory MPs from neighbouring seats have been bringing their volunteers with them to help Tom Hunt in his bid to overturn Sandy Martin's 831 majority in the general election.
Last week he was visited by South Suffolk's James Cartlidge and Jo Churchill from Bury St Edmunds while Suffolk Coastal candidate and Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Therese Coffey was in town with a group of her supporters on Saturday.
Mr Hunt said: "It is very welcome to see supporters from elsewhere coming to support the campaign here in Ipswich to help us get our leaflets out and to knock on doors."
He said his local supporters were all working very hard getting around the town and the visitors from elsewhere provided valuable extra help.
"We are finding people are happy to see us. We've knocked on thousands of doors and talked to people. The most interesting thing is we've only found 13 people who say they're thinking of voting for the Brexit Party so I don't think they're going to make much impact here."
Ipswich Labour Party, too, has been boosted by party supporters from across the area - although it has not seen the number of "names" that the Tories have been able to muster.
It has been attracting supporters from South Suffolk, Suffolk Coastal and Bury St Edmunds - and Mr Martin said their work was vital to the constituency.
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He said: "We need as many people as we can get to knock on doors and see what people are thinking. If someone wants to meet me to discuss something they can call me over once they've identified where the people are living."
But he emphasised that the Labour in the town doesn't believe that campaigning is just for the run-up to an election.
Mr Martin added: "Party members are going around the town knocking on doors most weeks of the year - they don't take much time off after local elections.
"Some people do say 'There isn't and election at the moment,' but we think it is important because there are political issues coming up all the time - not just when there are elections."
One thing that has been noticeable is that there has been no great influx into Ipswich from members of the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Conservative Association.
Members who live in the three Ipswich Borough Council wards in that constituency have been helping Mr Hunt, and Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks who lives in the constituency has also joined his election team.
But most Tory activists from the rural parts of the constituency have been joining Conservatives in the Norwich North seat who are hoping to see Chloe Smith repel a strong Labour challenge - her majority was just 501 in 2017.
This is part of a "mutual aid" operation organised by Conservative Party regional officers to ensure marginal seats are supported by party members from nearby safe constituencies.
Local Conservatives have pointed out that people living in rural areas of north Suffolk which are in the constituency can get to Norwich as easily as they can to Ipswich - and some have even been helping the Conservative effort in the North Norfolk constituency.
However the proposed Ipswich Northern Route has been opposed by many Tories in the constituency - and party chiefs may have remembered that Mr Hunt described those campaigning against the road as "Nimbys" earlier this year and decided it was best not to encourage them to personally join his army of supporters!