Labour prepares to choose new candidate for Ipswich

Tom Hunt

Labour is looking for a new candidate to try to win Ipswich off Tom Hunt. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Ipswich Labour Party hopes to have a candidate in place to fight the next general election by the end of July if the National Executive agrees it is one of 21 target seats where campaigning should be ramped up.

The selection of a new candidate is set to be fast-tracked to ensure he or she is in place by the summer and this autumn's conference season.

The national party is set to decide that 21 marginal seats across the country should go ahead with the selection process.

Four of the seats are in the East of England: Ipswich, Norwich North, Watford, and Peterborough.

That would allow constituency parties to advertise for candidates to enable them to draw up a long list which would then be whittled down to a shortlist. The timetable leading to the final selection meeting has not yet been decided but is expected to be completed before August.

Candidates from across the UK will be able to apply for the nomination - but over the last 50 years Ipswich Labour Party members have selected local applicants.

The last time they went outside the local party for a candidate was in 1972 when Ken Weetch was selected to fight the election in 1974 - he was from Saffron Walden.

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Labour no longer has a policy of forcing local parties to have all-women shortlists after more than 50% of the party's candidates and MPs were women at the last general election.

One person who has ruled out standing at the next general election is current borough council leader David Ellesmere - he has said he will be standing down as leader next May but said he had no plans at making another bid for the parliamentary seat after being beaten by Ben Gummer in 2015.

He said: "That is not in my plans. I am looking forward to being a backbench councillor again - not standing for parliament."

Whoever wins the nomination will be taking on Conservative MP Tom Hunt at the next election.

He has a majority of almost 5,500 - the largest the Tories have had in the town since the war - but campaigners will be aware that Ben Gummer overturned a similar majority to win the seat from Labour in 2010.

Ipswich is likely to be the only seat seen by Labour as a target in Suffolk - although the party is expected to start looking for candidates in some Essex seats, including Colchester, quite soon.