Labour still have much to learn

ALTHOUGH they've still got the executive of Ipswich council tied up, Labour are still trying to come to terms with the fact that they don't have absolute power at Civic Centre.

ALTHOUGH they've still got the executive of Ipswich council tied up, Labour are still trying to come to terms with the fact that they don't have absolute power at Civic Centre.

And party leaders are still scratching their heads about why the town's Liberal Democrats don't want to deal with them to prevent the Tories from gaining a degree of power.

It really does show they know nothing about simple human nature - and have never heard the old proverb: "Mind out who you hurt on the way up, you may meet them again on the way down."

This week Labour has been forced to bow to the inevitable and allow other parties a seat on the board of Ipswich Buses.

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It isn't a great change in the way the town is run - but Lib Dem leader Inga Lockington has had her eyes on a seat on the board for some years, and there have been vacant seats for as long as anyone can remember.

When she expressed her interest last year, senior managers at the bus company felt she would be a useful asset to the board.

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And Ipswich Buses chairman - and Labour councillor - Phil Smart was also in favour of her appointment.

But the Labour group as a whole could not stomach the thought of sharing the directorships with any other group - and their leader Peter Gardiner betrayed their pigheaded insensitivity when he said: "Labour is the only political party in Ipswich to care about public transport."

Now you can have a go at the Lib Dems for being flaky on some issues, you can even accuse them - at times - of being opportunist.

But to say they don't care about public transport is ridiculous - they care passionately about the subject. Some say they can bore for Britain about public transport!

To accuse Lib Dems of not caring about public transport is like saying Tories don't know what a profit is, or that the Labour Party has nothing to do with trades unions.

If the Labour leadership was so dismissive and insulting to the Lib Dems in May 2003, is it any wonder that the same Lib Dems weren't exactly anxious to leap into coalition with them in June 2004.

Meanwhile the Tories have been making very conciliatory noises towards the Lib Dems - at least they have since their confrontational leader Stephen Barker was suspended earlier this year.

They've discussed policy approaches with them. They've taken the trouble to find out where the two parties agree - and disagree - in the town.

Is it really any wonder that these two parties find it easier to co-operate with each other than they do with Labour?

The Labour group would do well to learn that a little humility goes a long way - but to learn that kind of lesson also means you have to have a little wisdom as well!

HERE'S an indication of how Labour still can't get its head around the fact it is no longer the majority party at Civic Centre.

A couple of weeks ago, at a regular meeting between political group leaders, Peter Gardiner told his Tory and Lib Dem opposite numbers: "I hope you'll accept that Labour, as the largest party, should have the committee chairs."

Tory leader Dale Jackson couldn't believe what he was hearing. "I just laughed and said 'wait and see,'" he told me.

Within the next few days Liberal Democrat John Cooper became chairman of the development committee, Tory David Goldsmith took over as chairman of scrutiny and fellow Tory David Hale was lined up as chairman of the licensing committee.

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