Election 2017: Election announcement leaves Labour playing catch-up in Suffolk seats
- Credit: Lucy Taylor
Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement caught Suffolk’s Labour parties unawares – and struggling to get themselves ready for the battle ahead.
Both Ipswich and Waveney were held by Labour before the 2010 general election, and both were key marginal seats in the 2015 election.
But neither have candidates in place to fight this election – and the candidates from 2015 have said they are not planning to fight again, leaving local members facing a race against time to find a new standard bearer.
In normal elections both would look attractive for wannabe Labour MPs, but given the standing of the national party in the polls this could be a challenging election for any candidate to fight.
Ipswich Labour agent John Cook said the party was waiting to get advice from Labour headquarters in London about selecting a candidate – but council leader David Ellesmere who fought the seat in 2015 ruled himself out of the running.
He said: “After that election I sat down and asked myself if I really wanted to be an MP anyway. I decided I was happy to work for the town as council leader so I will not be seeking the candidacy again.”
He accepted it would be a tough battle for whoever was selected – but felt Labour still had a strong message to put before the voters.
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Mr Ellesmere said: “We have been out on the doorstep day in, day out campaigning for the county council elections and we are hearing people concerned about cuts to education spending and welfare.
“I don’t see any great enthusiasm for the Conservative government and Labour has to get out its vote. I shall be part of the team trying to get a Labour MP elected here on June 8.”
Despite the party’s poor showing in national opinion polls, Labour was still able to get more volunteers out on the streets of Ipswich than all the other parties added together, he said.
There is a similar position in Waveney. In 2015 former Labour MP Bob Blizzard – who held the seat from 1997 to 2020 – announced he would not be standing again after losing for a second time to Conservative Peter Aldous.
The Lowestoft-based party is also looking for a new candidate for the election and, like Ipswich, had not started the selection process at the time Mrs May made her announcement.