Election 2017: Ipswich looks to future as campaign focuses on growing its prosperity
Ipswich is traditionally a traditional marginal seat fought over between Labour and the Conservatives – and this time those two parties are once again likely to be fighting for the Westminster seat once again.
But the character of the town is changing – investment in the area is starting to come through and the town is starting to feel more prosperous.
The Waterfront now feels more established as a “destination.” The redevelopment of the Buttermarket Centre has created a real leisure hub in the town centre. And other improvements are starting come through in the heart of the town.
Further investment is on the way near the Waterfront. The number of new homes being built is increasing, and transport links (especially the rail line) to London are seeing major renewals.
Key issues like the proposed Upper Orwell Crossing, the need for a northern by-pass, and general congestion problems in the town centre are jostling with traditional concerns like the state of the health service and education.
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Tory campaigners say a tough response to the Brexit negotiations is also a priority for many voters.
There are, however, continuing problems in the town – homelessness is becoming an increasingly visible issue with more people sleeping rough and average wages remain relatively low compared with other centres near London.
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The strong Labour vote is bolstered by a very active Labour Party whose members campaign across the town throughout the year.
The party is particularly strong in the council housing estates and in the town centre with a high proportion of residents living in small houses and flats.
Labour is particularly good at getting its supporters out in council elections where the turnout is traditionally low – but at the general election there is also a strong turnout of Conservative campaigners around the town.
Over recent elections the Tory vote has increased – although this is probably as much to do with the national picture as it is with local issues.
The shift in the nature of the town, from an industrial centre to being a commercial centre with a growing high-technology hub has also helped change the overall feel of the town.
There are six candidates standing for election in the Ipswich constituency:
Ben Gummer (Conservative): MP since 2010. Currently Cabinet Office Minister. He said the main issue in this election is the way the government handles the Brexit negotiations with the EU – people were telling him that they trust Theresa May’s approach more than that of Jeremy Corbyn.
He said: “We’re getting long-time Labour supporters telling us they will be voting for Theresa May because she represents their view much better than Jeremy Corbyn.”
He also felt that there was an optimism in the town and a belief that things were going in the right direction.
Sandy Martin (Labour): County councillor for 20 years and the current leader of the Labour group at Endeavour House.
He said traditional concerns were being raised most often on the doorstep – and people felt it was necessary to have someone fighting for them at Westminster.
He said: “There are the issues we always have – health and education and I think there is a very serious concern about funding problems in the NHS.
“There are also concerns about traffic problems in the town and widespread doubts about the proposed bridges over the Waterfront.”
Housing was also a major concern for many people and the Labour pledge to build more social homes was very welcome.
Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett (Liberal Democrat): He is also finding that the major concerns for most voters was the state of the health service and education.
He also has a particular interest in mental health and is campaigning to ensure that is a subject that continues to get more attention from the government.
Charlotte Armstrong (Green Party): She said she felt let down by other political parties after their periods in government.
She added: “I joined the Green Party as it is the only party to campaign for true social justice and addresses our reality of climate change and environmental destruction.
“I am a Green Socialist Feminist & Trade Unionist.”
Tony Gould (UKIP): He has lived in Ipswich for more than 40 years and worked for a major company in the town.
He said he wanted to see Britain leave the EU as quickly as possible and is also keen to see a reduction in the amount of money spent on international aid.
He is opposed to the development of the Ipswich Northern fringe – wanting to see development concentrated on re-using brownfield sites instead.
David Thabo Tabane (Independent): A public sector worker who has worked in health trusts in the Ipswich area, he wants people in the town to feel he is their employee working for them in parliament.
He wants to set up an e-voting system so people in the town can tell him how to vote during the five years of the parliamentary term.
Ipswich Constituency facts:
Ipswich constituency has changed over the years – the north west of the town was removed in 1983 to form part of the Central Suffolk constituency and while there have been boundary changes, the areas of Whitton, Whitehouse and Castle Hill remain outside the town’s main constituency.
Since the end of the second World War it has changed hands between the parties five times.
Post-war history of the seat:
1945-70: Labour MPs Richard Stokes (first elected 1938) and Sir Dingle Foot.
1970-October 1974: Conservative Ernle Money.
October 1974-1987: Labour’s Ken Weetch.
1987-1992 Conservative Michael Irvine.
1992-November 2010: Labour’s Jamie Cann and Chris Mole were MPs.
2010- : Conservative Ben Gummer.
Ben Gummer (C) 21,794
David Ellesmere (L) 18,051
Maria Vigneau (UKIP) 5,703
Barry Broom (G) 1,736
Chika Akinwale (LD) 1,400
Ipswich: Ben Gummer (C)*, Sandy Martin (L), Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett (LD), Charlotte Armstrong (G), Tony Gould (UKIP). David Tabane (Ind).