Ben Gummer nudges ahead in the election battle for Ipswich

Whose votes will be piling up at the election count in eight weeks' time?

Whose votes will be piling up at the election count in eight weeks' time?

With less than eight weeks to go, the General Election campaign in Ipswich is taking on a new intensity with the latest round of polling data suggesting it is neck and neck between Tory MP Ben Gummer and Labour challenger David Ellesmere.

Ever since he was selected to fight the seat in 2011, Mr Ellesmere has been seen as favourite to regain Ipswich for Labour at the General Election – his party has won it more often than not, even when the Tories have formed the government.

However recent polls and academic analysis suggests that the Conservatives have reined back that lead, and the latest data suggests that Mr Gummer might be marginally ahead in the race to the House of Commons.

Meanwhile its marginal nature has attracted national attention to the seat – and forced Mr Ellesmere to explain comments he made to Channel Four news about party leader Ed Miliband.

The Channel Four crew followed Mr Ellesmere while he was campaigning in Ipswich, and reporter Gary Gibbon asked whether voters felt anxious about Mr Miliband becoming Prime Minister.

Mr Ellesmere replied: “I think it would probably be true to characterise it more as they are not entirely sure about Ed.”

Speaking after the interview, Mr Ellesmere said he was trying to make the point that any leader of the opposition is at a disadvantage because voters could already see the incumbent as Prime Minister.

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He said: “Before the 1979 General Election polls had people seeing Jim Callaghan as much more ‘prime ministerial’ than Margaret Thatcher and it didn’t stop her winning.

“And there are a lot of people who are very sure that they want to see the back of David Cameron!”

The recent improvement in poll ratings for the Conservatives nationally has prompted the academics behind the Election Forecast website, which tries to predict the likely result in every seat across Britain, to suggest that Mr Gummer is now fractionally ahead in Ipswich – by 36% of the vote to Mr Ellesmere’s 35%.

The remaining votes, it says, will be split between UKIP, the LibDems and the Greens.

Election Forecast is designed and run by academics from universities across the country, including Chris Hanretty from the UEA.

He said: “There has been a national swing towards the Conservatives in the most recent polls – that has resulted in the stronger show for the party recently, but other factors such as the type of seat are also taken into account.”

However Mr Ellesmere remains upbeat: “We’ve been out campaigning regularly since 2010, and our vote is strong and I am confident we are looking at a good result.

“People are fed up with this government and cannot wait for the chance to get rid of them.”

Mr Ellesmere said recent polls showed Labour was doing much better in England than it had in 2010 – but he was concentrating on the fight in Ipswich: “The campaign is going well and I am increasingly confident that we can get a good result here.”

Mr Gummer, meanwhile, refuses to get involved in predicting the outcome: “I’m putting out my vision of what I want for Ipswich and I’m meeting the voters, whoever they support. I don’t get involved in predicting the likely outcomes.”

However, he did say that no-one seemed unsure about the Prime Minister: “He is seen as a strong leader who has led the country out of a deep recession.

“Not everyone likes him, but they know he is a capable leader.”