Ipswich/Suffolk: Parties prepare for crucial county election
Political parties are gearing up for three weeks of solid campaigning in the run-up to this year’s county council elections in early May.
It would surprise many if the Conservatives lost control at Endeavour House – but a major effort by UKIP and Labour’s strong showing in national opinion polls has caused some concern among leading Tories.
In Ipswich there are 13 seats up for grabs. In 2009 Labour won four, the Liberal Democrats three and the Conservatives the remaining six.
Few people expect that result to be repeated. In the 2005 election – which was also won by the Conservatives across Suffolk – the Tories took only one seat in the borough, Bixley, and a repeat of that result seems more likely.
The keenest battle in Ipswich is likely to be in the two-seat St Margaret’s and Westgate division where all three major parties believe they have a chance.
LibDem veteran Inga Lockington has held one of the seats for 12 years and is being joined on the ballot paper by party colleague Cathy French, who also sits with her on Ipswich council.
The Tories have always fancied their chances in the St Margaret’s part of the division and are putting up borough group leader Chris Stewart and Lee Reynolds.
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Labour holds the Westgate ward at the borough and its candidates Sarah Adams and Rob Bridgeman will also be hoping for an upset.
The Green Party is fighting every seat in Ipswich and UKIP is fighting all except Bixley – the one division the Conservatives are confident of winning on May 2.
In Felixstowe the most significant factor could be the total absence of any UKIP candidates – possibly because the party recognises that an anti-EU message is unlikely to go down well in an area whose economy largely relies on trade with the continent.
While the Conservatives are quietly confident about holding the two-seat Felixstowe Coastal division, there could be an interesting three-way battle in Felixstowe North and Trimley where both Labour and the LibDems feel they could win the seat from the Tories.
At Martlesham former Liberal Democrat county councillor John Kelso is trying to win the seat back from former county council chairman and Conservative candidate Patricia O’Brien.
There are two Conservative-held seats at Kesgrave and the Carlford seat, which includes the Westerfield area, is also Tory-held.
In Mid Suffolk Liberal Democrat John Field is defending the Gipping Valley seat which includes Claydon and Bramford – it is a seat that has been held by all three parties over the last 20 years and both the Conservatives and Labour will be working hard.
The intervention of both UKIP and the Greens here could be significant – the division includes the incinerator which is currently under construction.
Former county LibDem leader Kathy Pollard is not defending her Belstead Brook seat – which has boosted Conservative hopes of winning here.
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