In the aftermath of election we all need to act like adults – not stroppy kids!
- Credit: Ashley Pickering
It feels as if the world has been rather stood on its head over the last seven days, following the indecisive result in the 2017 General Election, writes Paul Geater.
In Ipswich we have lost a hugely effective MP who brought a great deal of investment to the town and helped raise its profile both regionally and nationally.
He has been replaced by an MP who knows every corner of the town and who has already put in 20 years of public service working for the people of Ipswich.
Sandy Martin might see things differently to Ben Gummer, but he is just as sincere in his beliefs, just as willing to meet people and work hard on what he thinks is best for the town. The political differences are there but the desire to improve the lives of constituents remains.
The result in Ipswich was a surprise, but not a shock given the two surveys looking at the town published a few days earlier.
Yougov had suggested the seat was swinging Labour – and the survey I organised for the Ipswich Star showed Sandy Martin had his nose in front.
This was the sixth such survey I’ve organised at elections (and referendum) since 1992. Everytime we use the same method which is (according to pollsters) unscientific. We aim to get a cross-section of the population and always do the survey in the same kind of places and at the same time of day.
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We don’t “weight” the results to reflect a particular demographic. We publish the figures, including the “don’t knows, won’t says, and won’t votes.”
And we’ve always got the result right – even though in recent elections this has been accompanied by a stream of abuse from some commenters when the survey is published.
We shall continue to use this method in future elections. I don’t know whether it would work elsewhere in the UK, but it works in Ipswich. My only regret is that I didn’t put £10 on Sandy Martin to win at 8/1 the day after our survey was published!
The result did shock a lot of people, especially those who had worked closely with Mr Gummer. But that’s democracy and we have to get on with it!
That includes Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble who demonstrated a degree of petulance after the result earlier this week.
He had been due to attend a photocall to announce the creation of a new school at the former Co-op building in Carr Street in Ipswich – but pulled out after hearing that Mr Martin (who is still opposition leader at Endeavour House for the time being) had been invited by Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere.
Mr Noble said Mr Martin was “photo-bombing” a project he had not been involved with.
At least he admitted why he had missed the appointment – he didn’t try to invent an “urgent” meeting to get out of attending the photocall, but that really doesn’t excuse his decision which will be seen by many as unhelpful.
The deal being announced was a joint project between the county and borough councils, an educational trust, the East of England Co-op and a government agency.
Mr Martin is now Ipswich’s representative in Parliament – and the initial invite had said the Ipswich MP would be there. Mr Gummer had played a role in setting up the deal, but he is no longer MP for the town so it was not unreasonable for Mr Martin to turn up.
Mr Noble might not like that fact – but would it really have hurt him to turn up, shake Mr Martin’s hand and say: “This was not the result I wanted, but we have to work together now?”
His boycott is setting alarm bells ringing in the town’s business community who see the need to engage quickly with Mr Martin to try to ensure that projects they back – like the Ipswich Vision, the Upper Orwell Crossing, and the improved transport links for the town – are not sidelined or derailed altogether. Mr Noble’s behaviour has raised serious questions in their minds.
One last point. Mr Ellesmere (and Mr Martin for that matter) knows Mr Noble well. He knew he would irritate Mr Noble by inviting the new MP along to the photocall.
It looks to me as if Mr Ellesmere was laying a totally undisguised trap for the county council leader. But Mr Noble couldn’t see that. He didn’t just fall into the trap, he threw himself into it head-first.
That will not be quickly forgotten by civic and business leaders in Ipswich – or by backbench Tory county councillors when they have to decide whether to re-elect a leader to represent the entire county, including Suffolk’s biggest town.