LibDem leader Kennedy in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 11:35 08 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 March 2010

LIBERAL Democrat Charles Kennedy became the first party leader to visit Ipswich during the by-election campaign today.

He visited Ipswich Hospital with parliamentary candidate Tessa Munt to drum up support for her in the November 22 election.

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By Paul Geater

Political Editor

PRIME Minister Tony Blair's control from Downing Street is so tight that the Government wobbles when he is away playing a leading role in the coalition against terror.

That was the verdict today from Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy who spoke to The Evening Star during a visit to Ipswich.

Mr Kennedy was in town to support his party's by-election candidate Tessa Munt, who is hoping to cause a major upset and snatch the seat on November 22.

"It is right for the Prime Minister to put much of his energy into working on the world situation," said Mr Kennedy.

"But if you look at what happens to the Government when he is busy on these matters – or even when he is just away on holiday – you see how things start to fall apart.

"We've got the situation with Stephen Byers with Railtrack and Jo Moore. And the government seems to be drifting with its health and education policies.

"We get announcements about new initiatives but then they make the same announcement time and time again," he said.

Mr Kennedy was at Ipswich Hospital to visit an elderly care unit and the maternity unit.

"The Liberal Democrats are the one party with a clear and continuing commitment to improving public services.

"Our pledges to increase spending on health and education went down well on the doorsteps during the June general election – and they're still understood by the voters," he said.

The Liberal Democrat leader met nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff and patients during his visit to Heath Road.

Mrs Munt said the party's message was going down well on the doorsteps.

"Labour has failed to live up to the promises they have made and the Conservatives don't offer any kind of real vision for the town," she said.

But his visit to the town prompted an instant reaction from the Conservatives who attacked his visit.

"Charles Kennedy has a cheek coming to Ipswich when the Liberal Democrats have let down the people of the town for so long," said Tory candidate Paul West.

"Whatever he says today, he can't escape the fact that they have been part of the ruling coalition in the county for eight years – and they've blown it."

A spokesman for Labour's Chris Mole said they regarded the Conservatives as their main opposition in the by-election but were trying to steer clear of negative campaigning.

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