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Fear is dangerous for politicians

PUBLISHED: 08:45 13 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:00 13 March 2013

Prefabs in Sidegate Lane

Prefabs in Sidegate Lane

THE concern that has blown up in the Rushmere area of Ipswich over the future of its prefabs is a salutary warning to all politicians of the danger of raising difficult issues.

There is nothing more precious for most people than the roof above their heads. Whether you own your own home or are a tenant, there is a real basis for the old saying: “An Englishman’s home is his castle.”

So when Conservative councillor Judy Terry raised the question of redeveloping the 1947-built prefabs and giving tenants the chance to move into modern, but more intensive, housing she was always poking a stick into a hornet’s nest.

The prefabs may have stood 50 years longer than they were supposed to, but the fact is that the vast majority of people living in them love the buildings.

I suspect they might secretly know in the bottom of their hearts that their homes may not last for ever, but they hope they’ll see them out.

So when someone comes along and says: “Maybe we should redevelop the site” there’s always going to be a strong reaction.

Mrs Terry insists she was merely trying to spark a debate, and I’m sure that’s true.

But when you spark a debate involving people’s homes, where they may have raised their families and where all their memories live you are on very dangerous ground.

The reaction I found when I walked around Inverness Road and Sidegate Lane did not suggest to me that Mrs Terry had done herself any favours with voters in that area. And as she prepares to stand again in the county council elections in May, her intervention could have lost her more valuable votes.

Politics can be a rough and tumble business, but politicians who provoke fear among their electorate are giving their opponents a huge advantage in the race for votes.

Rushmere has always been a swing seat in elections for both the county and the borough, and Mrs Terry could be facing a double whammy over the next two years.


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