Battlelines drawn up in crucial marginal seat of Ipswich

The 2010 general election count in Ipswich.

The 2010 general election count in Ipswich.

Voters across Britain will go to the polls in the General Election on May 7 – the first time an election has been fixed so far out.

Most seats across the country are safe and will see little more than a token battle or a struggle for second or third place. In Suffolk five of the seven seats look safe for the Conservatives.

But in Ipswich – and Waveney in the north east of the county – tight battles are expected in two key marginals.

In Ipswich all the main UK parties will be putting up candidates – but it is certain to turn into a straight two-horse fight between current Conservative MP Ben Gummer and Labour challenger David Ellesmere, the current leader of the borough council.

The Green Party has recently selected Barry Broom to fight the seat in May after its first choice, county councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer, dropped out of the contest.

Both UKIP and the LibDems are still to announce who will be fighting the seat for them.

While there will be some interest in who finishes third, fourth and fifth in the seat, it is the battle between Mr Gummer and Mr Ellesmere that will take centre stage.

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Ipswich is a marginal seat that has had a reputation for bucking the national trend in the past – although this is not always the case.

It is a seat that has not always followed the national trend – Labour’s Ken Weetch held on in 1983 when his party were losing badly across the country, only to lose in 1987 when the party nationally showed a slight revival.

One thing is clear is that it has more often been won by Labour – even when the Conservatives have won nationally.

The Tories were in power for 18 years from 1979 to 1997, but Ipswich was Conservative-held for only five of those years (1987-92).

Ben Gummer’s majority of 2,079 in 2010 was the largest won by his party in Ipswich since the universal franchise was introduced after the First World War, but it in 1997 Jamie Cann had a majority for Labour of more than 10,000 and even in 2005 Chris Mole had a majority of 5,500.

Both parties will be putting in a great deal of effort over the next four and a bit months to attract votes. Houses in the constituency are likely to be bombarded by leaflets and visits from political activists.

Today the two men battling for the seat give their views on the key issues facing voters.