General election 2017: New Labour MP Sandy Martin outlines his vision for Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 17:30 11 June 2017 | UPDATED: 18:13 11 June 2017
Newly-elected Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin will bring a very different style to his predecessor as he heads off to his new job in the Palace of Westminster.
He has already indicated he does not believe that a new large bridge – promoted by former MP Ben Gummer – linking the west bank of the Orwell and Cliff Quay is the answer to the town’s traffic problems.
And he also wants to look again at the Ipswich Vision proposals for the town centre.
He said: “That is one vision for Ipswich, but I am not sure how much engagement with the ordinary people of the town there has been and I would like to work with the Ipswich Vision partners, with One Ipswich and other groups to ensure we are working on something that everyone can back.”
The borough council recently gave permission for the redevelopment of the Cornhill in the centre of the town – work which should start early in the new year – and Mr Martin said he was looking forward to more investment coming to the town centre.
But he was not sure this should be retail-led.
He said: “I think we have to look at bringing other businesses to the town centre to bring people here to go to new stores that might come.
“Several years ago when John Lewis was looking to come to the town centre and was looking at the Civic Centre site they concluded Ipswich did not have enough to offer in the town centre and they needed to look out of town.
“We have to get more businesses to come into the town to bring people to spend money here.”
He was keen to see Ipswich develop as a tourist destination for east Suffolk.
He said: “If you are coming on holiday to Suffolk to go walking in East Bergholt or to visit Snape or the coast, then we have to promote Ipswich as a tourist base.
“It’s great walking in Constable country, but what is there to do in the evening if you are staying in East Bergholt? We can offer people entertainment here in Ipswich as well as easy access to the countryside.”
He is already being recognised on the streets of the town – people came up and shook his hand while we were taking photographs of him at the Town Hall and at Giles’ Circus.
He is due to complete the formalities on Tuesday morning after a day of meetings in the town on Monday. He is planning to meet borough chiefs and officials from Associated British Ports.
Mr Martin has already said that he has no ambitions for ministerial office once he gets to Westminster – he just wants to represent the residents of his home town.
But he does plan to continue to take an interest in local government matters – and wants to try to ensure there is a better relationship between Westminster and town and county halls.
He said: “Many MPs arrive in the House of Commons after serving as a councillor, but not many of them have been a councillor for 20 years before they arrive there.
“I think we need to have a much better relationship with local government. It sometimes feels that councillors who go to the House of Commons behave like children who go from primary school to secondary school and look down at their old school.
“Having said that, I think the real problem is with the civil service who are hostile to local government because they see it as an alternative power base.”
Mr Martin has already started planning to set up an MP’s office in the town and will also have an office in Westminster itself.
He said: “To be honest, I don’t yet know how many people I can employ or any details like that. I suspect I will have one person working in Westminster and two here in Ipswich – we will have to see.”
His office in the town will be in the Labour Party’s office in Silent Street. He will continue to live in Ipswich although has made arrangements to stay in a flat in London when he needs to and the House of Commons is sitting late.
And he is following the current negotiations between the Tory party and the Democratic Unionists with interest. However he is sure of one thing – the voters of Ipswich are not ready to go to the polls again in a hurry after two general elections and a referendum.
He said: “I’m not happy about the idea of the DUP in government – but I think there would probably be riots in the streets if anyone suggested holding another election this year!”