Central Suffolk a new battleground

WITH the general election now just a few months away, it will be very interesting to see what happens in the rather strange seat of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

WITH the general election now just a few months away, it will be very interesting to see what happens in the rather strange seat of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

This is a bizarre seat that is two-thirds urban, taking in the Whitton, Whitehouse and Castle Hill areas of Ipswich along with Kesgrave, Rushmere, Claydon, and Blakenham, and a third rural - going right up to the Norfolk border.

In the last general election the Conservatives ran a lamentable campaign in the constituency - and one which set the alarm bells ringing among its own top brass.

The campaign was fought very much on the argument that the election was the countryside-v-the town.

Tory literature implied that if you didn't have a flock of sheep outside your back window and a combine harvester in the garage then they weren't interested in you.

They hung on to the seat - a fact which was largely put down to the fact that Sir Michael Lord was a long-established constituency MP.

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But the party's performance in the constituency was the worst in Suffolk and in the county council election on the same day it was abysmal.

At the Ipswich end it suffered near wipe-out, losing two county council seats in Ipswich, the Kesgrave division, and its seat based on Claydon, Blakenham and Bramford.

One senior Conservative figure was seething when the results came in: “Central Suffolk was a disaster for us,” she told me.

“We offered nothing to the voters of Ipswich, Kesgrave and Claydon - and they gave us what we deserved. Next time we won't ignore the urban vote.”

That would be very wise of them.

Labour candidate Neil Macdonald is putting almost all his efforts into attracting the votes around north Ipswich.

He told me: “This is the part of the constituency where most people live, and it is the part of the constituency where we have most of our members and our organisation.

“I shall visit the more rural areas, but it isn't possible to get round as many people and our organisation is much more patchy.”

He didn't say it, but I also got the feeling that he knew even now there aren't many Labour voters in the small villages and big farmhouses in the countryside.

How will the Tories respond? We'll know in April when the first election literature starts dropping through the letterboxes.

And if people in Whitton are being told about the tragic state of the nation's farmers we'll know that they still haven't learned their lesson.

I RECEIVED a very attractive Christmas Card from Ipswich MP Chris Mole the other day - it features a lovely picture by 10-year-old Connie Cooper from Sidegate Primary School.

But what attracted my attention as much as the card was Mr Mole's circular inside telling us what he's been doing in 2004.

There's one side of words and one side of pictures - but I have to say I'm rather disappointed with choice of pictures.

Most of them are so boring!

I really would have thought Mr Mole could have done better than the front page of the ODPM Select Committee Report into the role of historic buildings in regeneration or a picture of a meeting at Westminster, or even one of him getting off a Superoute bus.

Where were the really interesting pictures of his year? Where was the photo of him in the New Zealand resort of Queenstown?

Where was the picture of Mr Mole studying local government in Australia and San Francisco?

I'm quite prepared to accept that his trip around the world in November as party of a parliamentary delegation studying voting systems in other countries was hard work and important to improve democracy in this country.

In that case shouldn't it have been something to boast about in his end of year report - and not something to ignore as if it's something to be quickly forgotten about?

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