Ipswich loses its maverick reputation

IPSWICH has a reputation as a marginal seat with a maverick streak - although this reputation is probably less deserved now than it was 15 years ago.In the 2001 general election Labour had a comfortable-looking majority of more than 8,000, but this was pegged back to 4,000 in the by-election later in the year.

IPSWICH has a reputation as a marginal seat with a maverick streak - although this reputation is probably less deserved now than it was 15 years ago.

In the 2001 general election Labour had a comfortable-looking majority of more than 8,000, but this was pegged back to 4,000 in the by-election later in the year.

However by-election turnout figures are always lower than those in general elections and Labour's share of the vote was not substantially reduced.

This time two of the candidates - Labour's Chris Mole and Conservative Paul West - are the same as in the by-election.

They are joined by Liberal Democrat Richard Atkins and three other candidates.

Ipswich is a seat which whose nature has changed considerably - and is still changing very rapidly.

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The reliance on large manufacturing industries has long gone, replaced by services - especially insurance.

There are thousands of new homes, especially at Ravenswood, although the full impact of the developments around the Waterfront have not yet been felt and will probably not kick in until the next general election.

Chris Mole, Labour.

After less than four years as MP, Mr Mole is keen to resume his career at Westminster and maintains that the campaign is going well.

He seems relaxed about the impact the party is having in the town - with his main concern being the temptation for some voters to stay at home on election day.

He said: “We do have to guard against complacency and the temptation for our supporters to think they can safely have a protest vote.

“But I think the message is getting through - people don't want to see Michael Howard in Number 10 and the thought of that is bringing them around to supporting us.”

He said traditional election issues seemed to be the most important to Ipswich voters.

“They talk about health and education, and seem to like the way Labour has run the economy over the last few years. No one has mentioned immigration to me,” he added.

Paul West, Conservative.

In his second tilt at the Ipswich seat, Conservative Paul West is bouyed up by the response he has been getting on the doorsteps of the town.

He said many former Labour voters are disenchanted with the party in general and with prime minister Tony Blair in particular.

“We are finding many, many voters who are unhappy with the government and want to teach the Labour Party a lesson.

“I don't think they will all vote for us - some will vote Lib Dem or just stay at home, but some will come over and combined with a fall in the Labour vote anything could happen.

“The main issues are dissatisfaction with Labour - which people express by saying Iraq - and then more general concerns like hospital cleanliness, asylum, and immigration,” he said.

Mr West acknowledged that at present Labour was slightly ahead in the constituency.

“But we are still in there with a real chance of coming through - a lot can happen in the final week of the campaign,” he said.

Richard Atkins, Liberal Democrat.

Liberal Democrats are benefitting from disillusioned Labour voters who are defecting by the dozen, according to the party's candidate.

Mr Atkins said: “We have been very pleased to find so many people coming across to us from Labour.

“There is some real concern about the prime minister - and it is not just about Iraq, but about things like tuition fees and other issues on which the government is not seen to have kept its promises.”

He said few voters had indicated to him that they were thinking of switching directly from Labour to the Conservatives.

“A lot of people think that the Tories have been running a very negative campaign and don't like that.

“They don't like the emphasis that has been placed on immigration and I don't think the Conservatives will pick up many votes beyond their core support.

“We hope we can build a platform to turn Ipswich into a genuine three-way marginal,” he said.

Alison West UKIP.

Mrs West is hoping to be part of a husband and wife team heading to Westminster - her husband John is standing in the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich seat.

She said: “We have found a large number of people concerned about the growth of the European Union and who feel the other parties have nothing to offer them.

“We have been getting votes from people who have previously voted Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat.”

Robert Jervis Kay English Democrats.

Mr Kay is fighting his first general election in Ipswich for the party which is seeking an English parliament along the lines of the Scottish parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Sally Wainman, Independent.

Mrs Wainman, a long-standing campaigner for the re-opening of Broomhill pool, is standing to raise the profile of swimming in the area - and to represent the area with an independent voice in the House of Commons.

2001 General Election:

Jamie Cann (Lab) 19,952

Edward Wild (Con) 11,871

Terry Gilbert (LD) 5,904

Bill Vinyard (UKIP) 624

Peter Leech (Soc All) 305

Shaun Gratton (Soc Lab) 217

2001 By-election:

Chris Mole (Lab) 11,881

Paul West (Con) 7,794

Tessa Munt (LD) 6,146

David Cooper (Christian Peoples Alliance) 581

Jonathan Wright (UKIP) 276

Tony Slade (Green) 255

John Ramirez (Legalise Cannabis Alliance) 236

Peter Leech (Soc All) 152

Nicholas Winskill (English Independence Party) 84

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