Labour split at Civic Centre

A COUPLE of weeks ago I upset Ipswich Conservatives by pointing out that there's a real battle going on by some members of the association and members of the opposition group on the council.

A COUPLE of weeks ago I upset Ipswich Conservatives by pointing out that there's a real battle going on by some members of the association and members of the opposition group on the council.

There are tensions, of course, within all political groups - and the Ipswich Labour Party is no exception.

In fact they don't seem to need to take any lessons from anyone when it comes to factionalism - and like all good factional disputes these have more to do with personal animosity than political differences.

The Labour tensions surfaced earlier this week when Andrew Cann, the son of the former Ipswich MP, produced documents showing that the council was preparing to sell the Corn Exchange and redevelop the Regent theatre.

There has been tension between Mr Cann and many members of the Labour council leadership since he launched a thinly-veiled attack on them during his eulogy at his father's memorial service a couple of years ago.

He joined the Labour Party shortly afterwards and tried to get adopted to fight a borough council seat - however he found himself thwarted whenever he appeared close to getting the nomination.

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Mr Cann isn't the only person to find himself frozen out. His closest ally on the council - and a family friend - was Chris Newbury.

He lost his Whitehouse seat to Liberal Democrat George King last May and has now found himself at odds with the rest of the party.

He was dropped from its list of approved council candidates, only to appeal to the party's regional office and win back his place. He hasn't been selected to fight any ward however.

Senior council members are deeply suspicious of Mr Cann and Mr Newbury. When we asked leisure spokesman John Mowles for a comment on the story we were running about the Regent and Corn Exchange his immediate reaction was: "I know exactly where that came from."

And that was more than 24 hours before Mr Cann's letter was published in last night's Star.

Mr Cann told me that in handing over the documents, he was effectively ending his political career in Ipswich.

That's a real shame because he's got more political sense than many of the current councillors who seem to have a slavish devotion to the party line.

During his latter years as MP Jamie Cann upset some members of his own party - and they seem determined to continue this battle against his family who, not unnaturally, want to protect the memory of a man who achieved great things for this town.

However Andrew Cann is not without allies on the Labour group at Civic Centre - where did he get his information from in the first place?

And he is sure that if more business within the group - and the party as a whole - was conducted by secret ballot, the leadership would not have such a stranglehold on decisions.

Last May the leadership's preferred candidate for a seat on the council executive was defeated in a secret ballot.

Leaders of the Labour group do take a certain pride in their "Stalinist" organisational methods - they might do well to remember that loyalty is one thing, blind subservience is something different.

I certainly stirred up a hornets nest by suggesting last week that there was nothing wrong with charging to use the school bus.

However I wish some of my critics would read what I said - I didn't claim everyone living in the countryside is loaded.

What I did say is that there are costs associated with living in the countryside - and it is right that the cost of transport to and from school is one of them.

People living in the countryside have to pay more for housing and transport to and from the supermarket.

They pay less in council tax and often less in insurance premiums. They also get subsidised public transport while bus services within large towns, like Ipswich, have to operate at a commercial level.

What they gain on the swings they lose on the roundabouts.

Why should rural residents expect free school transport? Why don't they ask the council to provide free trips to Tesco?

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