How will national politics impact on Ipswich's council election?

Election sign

Polling day in Ipswich is now only a week away. - Credit: Paul Geater

We are now a week away from polling day for the local elections in Ipswich and it is always wise to take anything you hear from politicians at election time with a pinch of salt.

Because I'm getting very mixed messages from those who are out canvassing on the streets.

Labour is upbeat. Their supporters think the national picture is looking good for them with all the trouble the Prime Minister is having over Partygate, the cost of living concerns, and the various headlines over refugees featuring both Ukraine and Rwanda.

I hear Labour was almost doing a jig of delight when the postal voting forms arrived on 30,000 Ipswich voters' doormats on the same day that Boris Johnson was getting a roasting in the House of Commons.

One senior Labour councillor told me: "The Partygate issue has really cut through. People are raising it, unprompted, on the doorsteps. I thought it had died down what with Ukraine and everything else, but it really has come back.

"I'm a lot more confident about his election now - and I think a lot of people will have just gone and sent in their postal vote while Johnson was squirming in the Commons."

But from most Conservatives, I've been hearing no one is interested in Partygate. Voters are worried about what is happening to the town and want a new broom to come in and make big changes in Ipswich.

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Voters like Boris for what he is doing to try to ease the cost of living crisis and to support the Ukraine government - and he should not be distracted by something trivial like a penalty fine for a nine-minute birthday party.

But I did have one who told me privately that the Prime Minister isn't the asset he was in December 2019 and said that if people bring him up on the doorstep it tends to be a bad sign.

I suspect Tories are also worried because the PM's transgressions tend to chime most forcefully with older voters who spent the last couple of years not seeing grandchildren and having to miss funerals of old friends and relations (whether they died of Covid or not).

And it's older people who are most likely to vote.

But to be honest the only people who will be really interested in Ipswich's election will be Ipswich's politicians.

It's the only Suffolk council where there is a vote this year, and the national politicians will be far more interested in what happens in London boroughs, large cities and in Welsh and Scottish councils than they are in places like Ipswich.

It will be interesting to see if the swirl of political news has any impact on turnout. Usually elections in quiet years like this see very low numbers of voters.

Until recently I've always liked the idea of annual elections. They do give a regular snapshot of public opinion.

But I'm now starting to feel that those councils that have all-out polls every four years might have got it right. You're not constantly thinking about what might happen next May and frankly you might not have as much voter fatigue.

I know many opposition politicians in Ipswich would support that - it must be a bit dispiriting to sometimes go into elections knowing it's impossible, or almost impossible, to win because of the mathematics when you only have a third of the council up for grabs.

But any request for a change would have to come from the council itself, and the Ipswich Labour Party likes annual elections - it keeps their volunteers on their toes.

The result of this year's election in Ipswich is now only just over a week away. Barring a total shift in the town's political tectonic plates, Labour will stay in power at Grafton House.

And I suspect the campaign of 2022 will probably be quickly forgotten. Those with an interest in politics are far more interested in what is happening in Westminster.