Gummer shows he knows the score

IPSWICH Conservative hopeful Ben Gummer has been showing a great deal of maturity over the last week in his reaction to the result of the Crewe by-election.

IPSWICH Conservative hopeful Ben Gummer has been showing a great deal of maturity over the last week in his reaction to the result of the Crewe by-election.

Mr Gummer is filled with youthful enthusiasm, but he has done well to ensure that he has not allowed this enthusiasm to get the better with him and make outrageous claims.

He knows if the swing from Crewe was repeated in Ipswich, he would be off to Westminster with a huge majority - but he knows that is not going to happen in a general election and is anxious to manage the expectations of his supporters and the voters in general.

After speaking to him in the wake of the Crewe by-election, I paraphrased his mood in the Star to say “Ben Gummer is today looking forward to success in the next general election,” a description which prompted a quick call back from him.

“I don't want to sound at all complacent, Paul,” he said. “The Ipswich Labour Party is still a formidable political opponent, and Chris Mole is a tough opponent.

“Things are looking good for us today, but it's going to be a hard battle.”

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He is right to be cautious - Ipswich is a tough nut for the Tories to crack in any general election - and if you look back at history it does not follow that a Tory government in Downing Street leads to a Tory MP in Ipswich.

The Conservatives were in power nationally for 18 years between 1979 and 1997, but for only five of those years did Ipswich have a Tory MP.

Labour has a full-time agent and a team of experienced political workers willing to pound the streets week after week throughout the year.

And they know how to get out the vote where it counts. Just look at the elections at the start of this month.

Within the 13 wards of the Ipswich constituency the Tories outvoted Labour significantly.

But Labour won seven seats to the Tories' four. They got the vote out where it mattered while the Conservatives simply built up huge majorities in their safe seats like Stoke Park, Holywells and Bixley . . . and in getting the votes out in an unsuccessful attempt to win St Margarets from their LibDem allies.

When the general election comes around Labour will find it much easier to get its “soft” vote out - those who may stay at home and grumble about the government now will reluctantly give it their vote when the chips are down because they'd rather grumble about a Labour government than swear about a Tory one!

This doesn't make it impossible for Ben Gummer to win Ipswich in the 2010 general election, but it doest mean that he has a far tougher fight on his hands than a simple look at the arithmetic might suggest.

But the important thing for him is that he knows it. Some of his supporters might think it will be a shoe-in but he knows they are wrong.

One thing is for certain, though, when the general election comes around, Labour will get its voters back in Crewe. I hope the Tory victor there, Edward Timpson, enjoys his next couple of years in the House of Commons.

Because Ben Gummer is far more likely to be there by the end of 2010 than he is!

ONE last word on Crewe.

To my mind all the commentators who have been saying it was the first Tory victory from Labour for 30 years have got it wrong.

In 1982 the Tories, in the wake of the Falklands War, won the Mitcham and Morden by-election after Labour MP Bruce Douglas-Mann defected to the SDP and decided to fight the seat under that banner.

I know some say the Tories won this seat from the SDP, but given that it was a Tory/Labour fight in 1979 and then the Conservatives won it in a by-election, I reckon that counts as their last victory . . . a mere 26 years ago!

WHAT on earth is the point of trying to save the planet?

The fact is most people aren't interested in trying to save the environment - we just want cheap food and energy today and who cares if our grandchildren or great grandchildren live in a desert? We aren't going to be around to worry.

The latest barking idea to save the environment has come from a group of MPs led by Tim Yeo, involving “carbon credits” and allowing people to trade their allowances with each other.

How on earth would this work? Can you imagine the computer problems the government would have introducing such a system? Can you imagine how much it would cost?

Of course there is a much easier way of rationing energy - increase taxes on it. The more oil, gas or electricity you use, the more you pay in tax.

And then there could be rebates if you use more renewable energy like solar panels (as I write this and hear the rain beating down I have to wonder about the point of them!) or wind turbines.

But then can you imagine any government having the courage to put up taxes on energy?

Let's all just stuff the environment and let future generations sort out our mess - and then jump on the next cheap flight to Benidorm!

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