George's legacy lives on

IPSWICH really has lost a great political character with the death of Whitehouse councillor George King.

IPSWICH really has lost a great political character with the death of Whitehouse councillor George King.

It's fair to say that he, possibly more than anyone else, was responsible for changing the face of the borough council over the last five years.

It is a legacy that his family can be proud of - and one that gave him much satisfaction.

Mr King was not always the easiest man to get on with - he could be cantankerous if you crossed him - but it was always obvious that he was determined to do the right thing as he saw it.

And there is no doubt that he worked tirelessly for Whitehouse ward - and that his work on the ground was rewarded with great personal support from many voters in the area.

It was this personal support that gave him the chance to mount one of the great political comebacks of recent years when he returned to the council in 2003 - a move which hastened the demise of the Labour administration he had been part of for 19 years.

Most Read

If anyone had suggested to me in 2000 that by the middle of the decade Whitehouse would be a safe Liberal Democrat - rather than Labour - ward, I would have probably suggested they needed to speak to a therapist!

The only political reputation Whitehouse had was for attracting the lowest turnout in the town - and guaranteeing a Labour victory.

That didn't seem too likely to change when Mr King stood as an independent in 2000. He was, at the time, a sitting councillor with a strong personal vote - and while he attracted a significant vote the official Labour candidate romped home.

Mr King faded from politics for the next three years as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats became stronger on the borough council.

So when his name appeared again on the ballot paper for the 2003 local government elections, it did surprise me somewhat - especially to see him fighting as a Liberal Democrat.

The LibDems had never done very well in Whitehouse, and at the start of the campaign I thought it unlikely he could win, even with his personal vote.

In the event, however, his personal vote was stronger than most people had realised - especially as sitting Labour candidate Chris Newbury had blotted his copybook with the voters by making a dubious joke about disabilities to LibDem councillor Jane Chambers who uses crutches.

Mr King was voted back on to the council - and the Liberal Democrats in Whitehouse proved that they are very difficult to dislodge once they've got their hooks into somewhere by winning the other two borough council seats on the council.

Had Mr King been the party candidate in 2003, no one else could have won the ward for the LibDems - that is acknowledged by Tony James who followed him to Civic Centre the next year.

That would have meant Labour would have retained power at the borough in 2004 - and who knows what the situation would be now.

From that point of view it is fair to say that without George King, the shape of politics in Ipswich would be very different today.

There is one great irony about what happened in Ipswich over the last few years.

When Mr King left the Labour Party in 1999, he told me: “If I'd wanted to be a Tory, I'd have joined that party years ago - not waited all this time to adopt all their policies. I've always been a socialist - I'm still a socialist - but is Labour socialist these days?”

He was instrumental in working out the deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to form an administration and keep his former party out of power.

I once asked him about this - and how he squared that deal with his socialist principles.

He told me that his concern was to find the best policies for Ipswich - and to work with whoever was prepared to work with him and his new party to achieve them. He told me: “I'm not a Tory, and I'll never be a Tory - but if they're prepared to support policies which are important to us then I'm quite happy to work with them.”

George King was someone who was always prepared to put loyalty to his voters and his town above that to his party - Ipswich has lost a great servant.

AS Sizewell A stopped generating electricity on Sunday, I felt a slight mixture of emotions.

I was a young child living near the coast when it was built in the early 1960s - I don't remember the time before Sizewell power station - and I remember many of my friends had fathers working there either during construction or when it was up and running.

Then for many years I was very dubious about the technology it used to create electricity. The Three Mile Island incident and later Chernobyl disaster made me very nervous about having this monster sitting there.

However over the last few years I've slightly reluctantly come to the conclusion that nuclear power and stations like those at Sizewell is a necessary evil.

The fact is that now it is shut, more conventional plants will have to pour more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to meet our need for electricity.

Many of us are doing all we can to save power - by switching off appliances, fitting low-energy light bulbs, and turning down the heating.

And while this and the introduction of renewable sources of power like wind turbines and solar panels will help, they'll never be able to provide the same kind of reliable power that we've had from Sizewell A year in and year out.

If we are going to continue to rely on electricity to power our lives, then the only way to do this without pushing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is by building more nuclear plants.

More research must be carried out into the disposal of waste - but ultimately there is no alternative to nuclear energy unless we are prepared to radically change the way we live.