Could Chris Mole be vulnerable?

UNTIL the last month or so I had not really thought Ipswich MP Chris Mole would be vulnerable at the next general election.Now I'm starting to think he could be in real danger of losing his seat.

UNTIL the last month or so I had not really thought Ipswich MP Chris Mole would be vulnerable at the next general election.

Now I'm starting to think he could be in real danger of losing his seat.

Like many - probably most - people in the area, I think he was wrong in his defence of the strategic health authority's decision not to develop a specialist heart attack treatment centre in Ipswich.

I am convinced there will be some people who would survive if given clot-busting drugs at Ipswich who will die if they have to be taken by ambulance to Norwich or Papworth before they are given any treatment.

However, Mr Mole is an honourable man, and I accept completely that he believed the new treatment system will be better for his constituents.

I don't believe he is cravenly following the party line for the sake of it. I am sure he has been convinced of the benefits of the new system and sincerely believes in it.

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But while I accept his argument that those who reach one of the specialist centres will get a better treatment than is currently available at Ipswich, I still come back time and again to the question: what about those who don't survive the journey?

Having a heart attack is an acute condition where minutes are vital.

Although I disagree with him on this issue, though, I don't accept what many people have recently been saying about Mr Mole - that he doesn't work hard enough for his constituency.

He has never been a “rent-a-quote” MP, but he has been effective in battles on behalf of his constituents - and when he has made a point the powers that be at Westminster are more likely to listen to it because it has come from someone who has considered his position first.

Mr Mole has been largely untainted by the MPs' expenses scandal although the revelations of the last two weeks will probably taint all sitting MPs to some extent at the next election

However, I suspect that his support for the decision not to upgrade the heart department at Ipswich Hospital could be a tipping point in the support he will get at next year's general election.

Suddenly a majority of 5,300 doesn't look as safe as it did - although it would be unwise of anyone to write off Ipswich Labour Party, it has a formidable election-winning record.

His Tory opponent Ben Gummer has mounted a very strong campaign against the heart changes and may well pick up votes as a result - especially as the town's Liberal Democrats still haven't managed to persuade Andrew Cann to change his mind and stand for them!

When the dust is settled at the end of the next general election campaign, I can't help feeling that Mr Mole's support for the SHA's heart decision will be seen as very courageous.

And as Jim Hacker discovered from Sir Humphrey, “courageous” decisions can be the kiss of death for politicians.

AS the scandal over MPs' expenses continues to rage, I find myself getting more and more confused about some of the attitudes being expressed.

According to opinion polls the party that has benefitted most from all the scandal at Westminster is UKIP - they have apparently been untainted by the scandal.

But of the 12 MEPs that were elected under its banner five years ago, one - Ashley Mote - ended up serving time for fraud. UKIP expelled him very promptly - but then both Labour and the Tories have taken action against some of their MPs.

So is UKIP really any whiter-than-white than any other party?

Then there are opinion polls telling us that people want an immediate general election because they want to clear out all those who have been milking the system.

Those same polls also tell us that people won't vote because they regard all politicians as corrupt.

What message are we getting there? People want a general election but don't want to vote in it! I have great difficulty in getting my head around that one.

I'm not sure a general election in such a fevered atmosphere would serve any real purpose - it might lead to some strange results with some who really don't have a clue or even worse have crawled out from the extremes of politics sitting on the green benches of the House of Commons.

There has to be a general election by May 2010 anyway. By then the atmosphere might be rather calmer and voters may think a bit harder before casting their vote.

In the meantime if they want to let off steam next month they can!

KATHERINE Miller was this week given a 16-month suspended jail sentence for failing to disclose on her housing benefit form that her landlord was also her father.

The judge told her she may have been entitled to the money anyway even if she had told the authorities her father was her landlord.

I was glad to see she was not immediately imprisoned - but I couldn't help thinking that if she had said: “I'm very sorry, I'm not very good at accountancy, this was an oversight,” she would have got off Scot-free.

After all that argument seems to be flying around the Palace of Westminster at the moment!