How much has the council really changed?

IT IS very tempting to see yesterday’s annual county council meeting at which Mark Bee was confirmed as the new council leader as the start of a new era.

While we should not under-estimate the extent of the changes, both political and managerial, that have happened at the county over the last six weeks, many things remain the same.

Put bluntly, Suffolk is not in May 1997 with Tony Blair telling his adoring Labour supporters: “A new dawn has risen, has it not?”

We are at November 1990 with John Major taking the Tory Party back to the mainstream after the Thatcherite revolution of the previous 15 years.

Mark Bee is, after all, a Conservative. He is however also a skilful politician who knows that, as Harold Wilson said, politics is the art of the possible.

He is leading a Conservative administration that knows it has to find �50 million of cuts next year and yet more the following year.

He may not talk about divestment or the new strategic direction, but he knows there will be tough decisions over the next few months and years – and that many of those decisions will not be popular with the voters.

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There is evidence that many “natural Tories” understand the need for cuts and while they might not like individual savings they are prepared to accept them for the greater good.

And Suffolk is a “naturally Tory” place. I know a Labour/LibDem coalition ran the council between 1993 and 2005 but that required voters to elect Liberals in Framlingham, Eye and Orford as well as Labour councillors in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Sudbury, Haverhill, Stowmarket, and Felixstowe.

Labour might be able to come back strongly in 2013, but the LibDems will still have an uphill struggle.

The fact is that yesterday’s change at the county was replacing one style of Conservative administration with another – but it’s still the biggest change we’re likely to see at Endeavour House for some time!