Ex-mayor goes back home to Labour

WHEN former Ipswich mayor Gillian Auton left the Labour Party and joined the Liberal Democrats 10 years ago, her defection stunned her colleagues and caused shockwaves in the town's political circles.

WHEN former Ipswich mayor Gillian Auton left the Labour Party and joined the Liberal Democrats 10 years ago, her defection stunned her colleagues and caused shockwaves in the town's political circles.

Now, however, Mrs Auton has buried the hatchet and is once again campaigning for Labour in the seat - even though her membership of the Lib Dems hasn't expired yet.

Mrs Auton left Labour several years ago after accusing the local party of arrogance and not listening to people.

She joined the LibDems, and even fought her old Rushmere seat as a LibDem candidate in several elections without coming near getting elected.

But today she admitted she had always voted Labour in general elections, even while active in the Lib Dems: “In Ipswich if you don't vote Labour, you let the Tories in. And I wasn't having that,” she said.

“There have been a number of factors that have led me back towards Labour.

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I don't like the way the Lib Dems in Ipswich have gone in with the Conservatives at Civic Centre.

“And I know at least three of the Liberal councillors are very uncomfortable with the coalition - I don't know how long it will last,” she said.

And as a former mayor, she had been very impressed by the way the current mayor, Labour councillor Roger Fern, had conducted himself in difficult circumstances.

“It can't be easy to be mayor when your party is in opposition,” she said.

Her membership of the Lib Dems expires at the end of June and she will not be renewing it.

She has been telephone canvassing for Labour, and her husband Jim has rejoined the Labour Party.

Mrs Auton's departure from the Liberal Democrats left the party's candidate in Ipswich, Richard Atkins, unmoved.

He said: “We have been finding many, many people coming across to us from Labour - only yesterday we had an ex-Labour MP joining the Lib Dems.

“This is one person going in the opposite direction, it is not significant.”

But Labour candidate Chris Mole, who is hoping to return to Westminster after the election, welcomed Mr and Mrs Auton back to the party.

He said: “Gillian and Jim were friends when they were in the Labour Party, and I am delighted they have come back.

“We are finding people understand that the only way to beat the Tories in places like Ipswich is to vote Labour.”

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