What can we learn from Labour's big win in Ipswich?

The count under way at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

The count under way at Ipswich Corn Exchange - Labour had a good night by turnout was down. - Credit: Paul Geater

Last week's borough elections in Ipswich were a real triumph for Labour as it crushed the main opposition, in terms of seats won, and effectively guaranteed its position running the council for the next four years.

In Ipswich there is no doubt that Labour were the big winners - but scratch under the surface and there were conflicting patterns emerging across the town.

The simple facts are stark. Across the 16 wards of the town, 13 were won by Labour candidates, two by Conservatives and Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington ended up with the largest individual vote (and majority) of the night in St Margaret's.

In the marginal Ipswich constituency the Conservatives won only one of 13 wards, their bastion in Bixley. That is only the second time that has happened since the 1990s - the party has almost always managed to hang on to either Holywells or Stoke Park (often both) - however badly it has done.

However turnout was seriously down on last year. Labour only managed to increase its number of votes by about 600. That's okay - especially as there was one fewer seat up for grabs this year - but it's hardly setting the world on fire!

The Conservative vote was down by about a third - but the figures suggests that disaffected Tories in Ipswich are not yet ready to make the leap to Labour just yet. They just didn't bother to vote this time.

The Conservatives also fell victim to one of the most common tactical blunders at election time. They thought there was no danger in Stoke Park so they concentrated all their efforts on the neighbouring Sprites ward where they hoped to gain another seat from Labour - and ended up losing both seats.

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The Stoke Park result saw controversial Conservative councillor Nadia Cenci defeated after 16 years - a result that was surprising but not a massive shock.

In the last few days of campaigning there had been quite of lot of chatter coming out of Stoke Park about how Labour candidate Tony Blacker had been eating up the miles walking around every street in the ward - and how everyone seemed to know him.

Labour campaigners said Ms Cenci's robust style of Conservatism and strong defence of the Prime Minister during the Partygate controversy had made her a Marmite figure among many of her natural supporters - and Mr Blacker's campaign had cut through strongly.

The Conservatives have chipped away at the Labour heartland of Sprites. Former councillor and well-known local figure Colin Smart was elected back on to the council after losing the seat last year - but he only has a Labour majority of 90 and this clearly now needs to be seen as a marginal ward.

What is interesting is that some wards that were seen as marginal a decade ago, like St Johns and Rushmere, now look safe for Labour while Sprites and Gainsborough that have usually been safe Labour territory are now marginal.

The Liberal Democrats retained their St Margaret's fortress but did little in most other parts of the town - although they are starting to make progress in the safe Conservative seat of Castle Hill.

They came third but former borough councillor Martin Pakes did increase the party's vote significantly and if they can persuade Labour voters here that they are the only party who can challenge the Tories it could be the scene of some interesting battles in the future.

However with Conservative group leader Ian Fisher being one of the Castle Hill councillors it is not a seat they are likely to be complacent in!

One last point that all politicians in Ipswich will have noticed is that 57% of votes cast in the election came in by post - people had voted before election day, in many cases probably on the day their voting slips arrived.

That meant any last-minute campaigning was lost on them - and this year it certainly justified David Ellesmere's enthusiasm for the fact that for many people their postal voting slips arrived on the day Parliament was debating Boris Johnson's fixed penalty ticket as part of Partygate!

The Greens have yet to make a meaningful breakthrough in Ipswich - although there are several wards where they have beaten the Liberal Democrats into third place, But they are a very long way from winning their first seat on the council.