Former MP Sandy Martin hopes for county council comeback

Sandy Martin

Sandy Martin is hoping to return to Suffolk County Council. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Former Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is hoping to make a political comeback by returning to Suffolk County Council in this year's local council elections.

He has been selected by Labour to contest the Rushmere Division in Ipswich in the poll on May 6 - current county councillor Sandra Gage is stepping down from the authority after eight years as a councillor.

Mr Martin represented the neighbouring St John's Division for 20 years before being elected to Westminster in 2017, and he lives in east Ipswich.

He said he was not sure how much his experience of life at Westminster would be of relevance if he did return to the council - but felt his 20 years as a councillor would be valuable.

"I know how the county council works and I feel I have something to offer so I will do all I can to be re-elected back to the authority in May," he said.

Several senior Labour councillors are standing down at May's election - so if Mr Martin did return to the chamber it would be a big boost to the party's group.

Before his election to parliament in 2017, Mr Martin was leader of the opposition Labour group at Endeavour House. The current group leader is Sarah Adams who succeeded him in the St John's Division.

Mr Martin only spent two and a half years at Westminster before losing the Ipswich seat to Conservative Tom Hunt at the end of 2019.

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The Rushmere division looks reasonably safe for Labour now - Ms Gage had a majority of 432 (more than 15% of the vote) in the last elections in 2017 - but it was held by the Conservatives for four years after the 2009 elections which were very bad for Labour across the UK and especially in Suffolk.

While Mr Martin is standing for the Rushmere seat on the county council, Alasdair Ross is defending the Rushmere Ward in the borough elections - which has slightly different boundaries and Ms Gage and Kelvin Cracknell are also Labour borough councillors in the ward.

He said “I have worked alongside Alasdair and Sandra for many years, and have also had a close working relationship with Kelvin.  I am delighted and honoured to be selected to stand for Rushmere. The four of us have already met to discuss what more we can do to benefit local residents in the future.”

Ms Gage said: “When I left my job at Suffolk County Council in 2012, standing to be a County Councillor became an obvious way of using my professional experience, to represent the part of Ipswich where I live and help Rushmere residents.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed the last eight years and believe that I have had a number of successes in helping individual families, as well as bringing about several practical improvements to the Division.

"I will continue to represent Rushmere to the best of my ability alongside Kelvin and Alasdair as a Borough Councillor, and I am looking forward to working with Sandy as, hopefully, our new County Councillor in May.”

Mr Ross said “We have had three excellent councillors serving Rushmere for the past two years, and now hopefully after May we will have four. My Rushmere borough councillor role was enhanced by working with Sandy when he was an MP and I am really pleased to now have him on our local team.”

Although it is not a usual career-path for former MPs to return to local government, it is not totally unheard-of.

Ivan Henderson was MP for Harwich from 1997 until 2005. After losing his seat in parliament he stood for election to Essex County Council in 2011 and is now leader of the Labour group at County Hall in Chelmsford.

He said Mr Martin would notice some differences from his Westminster role: "I found it very useful to have the Westminster experience when you go back to the council, you know who to deal with. But the one big difference is that you don't have researchers working for you - you have to do all that yourself.

"But I'm sure Sandy will be a real asset to the council."



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