Cann's son turns back on Labour

JAMIE Cann's son has today turned his back on his father's party to join the Liberal Democrats.Andrew Cann joined Labour after his father's death in 2001, but grew increasingly disillusioned with the party both in Ipswich and nationally.

JAMIE Cann's son has today turned his back on his father's party to join the Liberal Democrats.

Andrew Cann joined Labour after his father's death in 2001, but grew increasingly disillusioned with the party both in Ipswich and nationally.

Today he told the Star why he had left Labour to join the Liberal Democrats. He said: "I think they have the same policies that Labour had 10 years ago.

"They are like the Labour Party under John Smith - wanting no student fees, free care for elderly people, and a 50 percent top rate of income tax."

After he joined the Labour Party, Mr Cann became chairman of the St Margaret's branch and was selected on to the list of council candidates - although he never fought a borough council seat.

However he always had a strained relationship with some figures within the Ipswich Labour Party, and felt many of them had been disrespectful towards his father's memory.

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He had to resign his Labour Party positions after leaking details of proposals to close Ipswich Corn Exchange earlier this year - but remained a member of the party until today.

Mr Cann said: "It was a bit of a wrench leaving because I had to tell my family and friends who have been in the Labour Party for many years.

"But while they are not following me, they understand why I have done this."

He felt his father would also have understood why he had taken the decision.

"He'd have given me some gentle ribbing, but he always respected other people's views if they were genuinely held," he said.

Inga Lockington, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Ipswich council, was delighted that Mr Cann had joined the party.

She said: "I do not know him well, but my husband was with him the other evening and said what a charming and intelligent young man he was.

"We are always delighted when people join us, but I must emphasise that it is Andrew's decision - we haven't gone out looking to get members of other parties to join us."

Labour group leader Peter Gardiner said it was Mr Cann's decision to join the Liberal Democrats.

He said: "I just wish he hadn't done so much damage to the Labour Party over the last few months before he decided to leave us." Many senior Labour figures in the town believe Mr Cann's decision to leak details about discussions over the Corn Exchange contributed to their losing power in June's borough elections.

Jamie Cann was Labour leader of Ipswich council from 1979 until 1991.

During that time Crown Pools and the town's sports centres were built - and the Regent Theatre was bought by the council.

He also oversaw the modernisation of the town's council homes, a move he always saw as his proudest achievement.

From 1992 until his death in 2001 Jamie Cann was the town's Labour MP, increasing his majority from less than 300 in 1992 to more than 10,000 in 1997.

Jamie Cann's widow, Rosie, remains a member of the Labour Party and said Andrew's decision was a matter for him.

"We brought up our children to think for themselves," she said.

Jamie Cann's Labour successor as MP, Chris Mole, said he was saddened to hear of Andrew Cann's defection - but was not surprised given the tensions that had built up between him and other Labour members over the last few months.

Jamie Cann:

Born 1946 in North Lincolnshire.

Moved to Ipswich in late 1960s to teach at Handford Hall school - he rose to become the school's deputy head and remained there until his election to parliament in 1992.

Appalled at the conditions many of his pupils lived in, he joined the Labour Party.

1973: Elected to Ipswich council, immediately became housing committee chairman.

1976: Labour lost power in Ipswich, Mr Cann became group leader on the council.

1979: Labour returned to power at Civic Centre on the night Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister - Jamie Cann became council leader.

1984: Crown Pools opened.

1991: Regent Theatre taken over by council as part of complex land deal which saw the construction of the Odeon Cinema. Mr Cann resigned as council leader to concentrate on fighting the Ipswich parliamentary seat.

1992: Elected to the House of Commons with a majority of 265.

1997: Re-elected with a 10,000 majority.

2001: Retains seat with a majority of 8,000, but becomes seriously ill a few months later.

Died October 15 2001.

WHILE Labour was still in opposition, Jamie Cann once told me that he found Liberal Democrat MPs at the House of Commons "too serious."

He said: "For them politics is everything - they aren't interested in anything else. The only one who's good company is Charles Kennedy - he's a good bloke!"

Andrew Cann:

Age 32.

Jamie and Rosie Cann's elder son.

Works as a manager at Felixstowe port.

Joined Labour Party after his father's death.

Became ward chairman of St Margaret's in Ipswich and chosen for candidates list - but never fought a council election.

February 2004: reveals Labour group is looking to close Corn Exchange.

October 2004: leaves Labour Party and joins Liberal Democrats.

What do you think of people who switch political parties? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail