Mole's not a chip off the old block

IT SEEMS as if it's open season on Ipswich MP Chris Mole right now, with much criticism about how much he does, or doesn't do, for the town.Much of the criticism of the town's MP seems to be that he “doesn't fight for Ipswich” like his predecessors Ken Weetch and Jamie Cann.

IT SEEMS as if it's open season on Ipswich MP Chris Mole right now, with much criticism about how much he does, or doesn't do, for the town.

Much of the criticism of the town's MP seems to be that he “doesn't fight for Ipswich” like his predecessors Ken Weetch and Jamie Cann.

People say he spends too much time toadying up to the Labour leadership in an attempt to climb the greasy pole of ministerial rank.

“Jamie fought for the Bartlet, Chris Mole doesn't,” is a cry I've heard time and again.

His critics point to the fact that he's been appointed as a parliamentary private secretary as evidence that he isn't doing enough for Ipswich.

There's no doubt that Mr Mole doesn't fight local battles like his two Labour predecessors.

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What is surprising is that people should be surprised by that!

Frankly it is unusual for MPs to put as much effort into fighting for their local constituencies as Mr Weetch and Mr Cann did. The town's two Tory MPs in living memory, Ernle Money and Michael Irvine, were also known as key local characters.

To have four MPs with such strong local identities was quite exceptional.

They put the constituency far ahead of their Westminster political careers in their list of priorities. And they made Ipswich people think that's the norm. Well, it isn't. Most MPs aren't fired up by a zeal to follow their conscience and do the best for their constituents.

They want to climb the greasy pole and will bend their views to go along with whatever their party wants.

Look at Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer. He started as a strong Heath man, his wife was Ted Heath's private secretary, but became the chief cheerleader for Mrs Thatcher.

He then became a strong supporter of John Major - and it was only after it was clear that his front-bench career was over that his opposition to his party's stance on Europe became clear.

And Sir Michael Lord may be a very important figure in parliament as deputy speaker - but when was the last time you bumped into him at the Meredith Road shops in the North Ipswich part of his constituency?

So don't run away with the idea that there's anything odd about having an MP who has to check with the whips every time he opens his mouth.

Don't think there's anything peculiar about an MP who thinks that his government is always right.

Chris Mole is just being a typical Westminster insider who will probably reach the dizzy heights of under secretary in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

It's just that we've been spoiled by some of the outspoken characters we've had representing the town in the past.

OLDER readers may remember that in the early 1960s both Labour and the Conservatives moved to the political centre and the phrase Butskillism was born.

It was a merger of the names Gaitskill (the Labour leader) and Butler (the leading Conservative thinker).

Now it looks as if those days could return as the Tories' new golden boy David Cameron is about to face Labour's Tony Blair across the despatch box in the House of Commons.

There's already been a love-in of sorts after the government announced its new education policy and the Tories' only response was to say: "we were doing this 10 years ago."

Already I've seen the men's philosophy described as "Blameron." Can you imagine Margaret Thatcher and Michael Foot fighting over the middle ground?

Mr Cameron is clearly the most attractive Tory leader for decades and could well manage to pull back some of the middle ground that Labour has attracted in the last three general elections.

Perhaps Labour will turn to the left slightly when Gordon Brown takes over at Number 10 - but it's difficult to imagine him varying too far from Blair's line.

All in all the combination of a more centrist Tory party, a more left-wing Labour leader, and I can't help feeling that the big losers in the next election will be the Liberal Democrats who will see their votes under attack from both parties!

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