Liberal Democrats planning ahead

LAST week's local election results came a year too late for the Conservatives – in Ipswich at least.They were in jubilant mood at the end of the night, and it would be churlish for anyone to deny them their moment to savour.

LAST week's local election results came a year too late for the Conservatives – in Ipswich at least.

They were in jubilant mood at the end of the night, and it would be churlish for anyone to deny them their moment to savour.

Across the country the party had done well. In Suffolk they had performed creditably – but in Ipswich they surpassed themselves by winning Whitton and giving senior Labour councillor John le Grys the fright of his life in Sprites ward.

But they need to be wary before becoming too complacent – they suffered a false dawn in 2000 when a vote against Labour could not be sustained.

This year was good for the Tories, but they still won only six out of the 16 seats up for grabs.

What was more spectacular was that Labour won less than half the seats – seven out of 16.

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The difference was made up of the Liberal Democrats, who snatched Whitehouse and now have five councillors in three wards at Civic Centre.

And it is their march which is giving Labour officials more sleepless nights than the Tories' resurgence.

They've seen the Liberals start from the nowhere to take Norwich and Cambridge City Councils.

Now there are some within Ipswich Labour Party who think this town could go the same way.

And the Liberal Democrats themselves expect to keep up the pressure – they started with one councillor four years ago and now have five at Civic Centre.

They are still very much in third place both in terms of the number of councillors and in the number of votes they gathered.

But if you look at the votes in Ipswich as a whole, the Liberal Democrats are the only party to have made a significant increase over the last year – their share of the vote increased from 21 to 26 per cent.

Labour's share of the vote was down by 8.4 per cent and the Tories only increased vote across the town by 1.4 per cent, although they did make big strides in one or two hotspots.

So do we have a trend here which will see the Lib Dems taking power by the end of the decade? Or have they now peaked as the other parties react to the challenge.

In two or three years' time we should know the answer.

BOROUGH council officials are hailing e-voting in Ipswich as a great success, as across the town 21.7 per cent of votes last Friday were registered by new technology.

That's an impressive figure, and I'm one of those who took the chance to vote using my computer at home.

But in the final analysis, I can't help feeling the experiment was not really a success at all.

The fact is, the turnout this year was no better than it was last year.

That suggests that most of those who used e-voting – like me – are those who would have voted anyway.

It may have attracted a lot of attention from across the world – we even had a Russian television crew at the count – but it didn't achieve its aim of boosting turnout.

I know officials at Civic Centre maintain it encouraged some young people to vote and that without it turnout would have been even lower.

But if the best you can say is that it prevented a poor turnout from being even more lousy then is that really any kind of endorsement?

THEY'RE changing guard at County Hall as Bryony Rudkin takes over as leader of Suffolk from Jane Hore.

Whether policies change isn't clear – but the personalities of the two couldn't be more different.

Last year I had a dig at the language in the council's budget document comparing it to Billy and Johnny meeting Stanley Unwin.

We produced a picture with Bryony and Jane's heads on the Billy and Johnny characters.

I understand Bryony loved it while Jane was clearly not amused. In the rough and tumble of politics, an ability to laugh at yourself is pretty important.

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