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Election headache as Inter head for town

PUBLISHED: 14:24 03 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:19 03 March 2010

IPSWICH Town's UEFA Cup draw with Inter Milan may have had football fans cheering - but it's given a real headache to political organisers.

The first leg of the third round tie, at Portman Road, will be held on November 22 - the day of the Ipswich by-election to choose a successor to Jamie Cann.

IPSWICH Town's UEFA Cup draw with Inter Milan may have had football fans cheering – but it's given a real headache to political organisers.

The first leg of the third round tie, at Portman Road, will be held on November 22 – the day of the Ipswich by-election to choose a successor to Jamie Cann.

Polls are due to close at 10pm that night – just as up to 26,000 football supporters are pouring on to the streets from Portman Road.

"It's going to cause us tremendous problems," said Ipswich Council chief executive James Hehir who will be acting as returning officer for the election.

"We had realised we could have this problem as soon as November 22 was raised as a possible date for the by-election, now we're having to plan around it.

"The idea was to get ballot boxes from all parts of the town back to the Corn Exchange within a few minutes of the close of the poll – but all the football traffic will delay that.

"It could take up to an hour to get all the boxes back here and the counting underway."

Ipswich council came under fire for the amount of time it took to count the votes during at the general election.

The result at the Corn Exchange wasn't declared until shortly before 4am – two hours after the result from Suffolk Coastal where ballot boxes had to travel up to 30 miles.

"We have completely reviewed the way we count, and I am taking personal charge of the count," said Mr Hehir.

"It will be much quicker than it was in June, but not as quick as it would have been without the football traffic – but we can't do anything about that," he said.

The match will also cause problems for the campaign teams on election day.

Normally they spend the evening "knocking up" known supporters who have not yet voted to ensure they get as many votes as possible.

However with the Ipswich/Inter match almost certain to be televised, it would be unwise for any supporters to disturb armchair Town fans on the night!

Season ticket holder Mr Hehir is especially cursing his luck – he will have to spend the evening of November 22 preparing the Corn Exchange for the count.

He also missed the home Helsingborgs match because he was hosting the SOLACE conference in the town!

The Conservatives today chose Paul West as their candidate for the by-election, meanwhile both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have opened their election headquarters for the battle ahead.

Labour is basing itself in a former car rental depot in Fore Street, while the Liberal Democrats' headquarters in St. Helen's Street was opened by Colchester MP Bob Russell.

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