MPs need a bit more dynamism

SUFFOLK'S MPs have only four months go before they're up for re-election.And I'm afraid they don't look like the most dynamic bunch I've ever seen.In this election two of the county's sitting MPs - John Gummer and Sir Michael Lord - are pensioners.

SUFFOLK'S MPs have only four months go before they're up for re-election.

And I'm afraid they don't look like the most dynamic bunch I've ever seen.

In this election two of the county's sitting MPs - John Gummer and Sir Michael Lord - are pensioners.

A third - South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo - will be 60 by the time the campaign gets under way.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole is from a younger generation - but at 47 his days of following new wave pioneers Graham Parker and the Rumour seem a long way off.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley is the “baby” of the county's MPs at only 43 by the time the election comes around - but somehow I see him happier at the hunt ball than at a decent rock gig!

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What is needed, frankly, is an injection of new ideas if not new blood into politics in Suffolk.

Experience is all very well, but it needs to be tempered with an indication that you are also aware of the world you're in.

Wouldn't it be good to see Sir Michael Lord in the North Stand at Portman Road cheering on Ipswich!

When can we expect to see John Gummer rooting around the stalls at Felixstowe Sunday Market - not as part of a photo opportunity but because he really wants to be there?

And when will Mr Yeo, the Conservative's transport spokesman, spend a week commuting from his home in East Bergholt to London every day - like many of his constituents?

When I say like many of his constituents, that's what I mean - in standard, not first class!

These comments are, I know, very flippant - but when you look at Suffolk's MPs they all appear to be from the same mould, whatever party they come from.

They're all male. They're all white. They're all (relatively) old.

To a middle-aged political hack like me, they seem all right. But how do they relate to a single mother living on a council estate?

How do they relate to an 18-year-old who wants to leave home but doesn't know whether to go to college and build up thousands of pounds in debts, or start a plumbing course while living in a bedsit?

Our MPs may think they know what makes the world tick - but it isn't themselves they have to convince, it's the voters. And that might be tougher than they think.

GENERAL elections are meant to have an aura of mystery surrounding them - the actual date of the poll is decided by the prime minister and there is a convention that no one knows when it will be until an announcement is made.

That's all gone by the board now. They'd be mass shock across the country if Tony Blair didn't call the election for May 5.

And the Conservatives would certainly be left with red faces - after party leader Michael Howard launched the first part of his manifesto this week.

And South Suffolk MP and shadow cabinet minister Time Yeo also got in on the act by saying that the party had wasted the chance to rebuild itself under the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith.

What I found most interesting was the admission from both Mr Yeo and Ipswich Conservative hopeful Paul West that their party had been guilty in the past of preaching to the converted.

It spoke only of issues that concerned its own die-hard supporters, the sort of people who would vote for a donkey if it had a blue rosette on!

Frankly if it's taken seven and a half years since Tony Blair came into office for the Tories to realise this, it must be taken as an indication of just what a dreadful state the party has been in for that time.

Opinion polls suggest that the Tories aren't going to win the 2005 general election - whatever Messrs Yeo and West may claim.

But the attitude being shown by some of the party leadership suggests that the party may be taken out of its tailspin.

The general election of 1987 is not seen as a success by anyone in the Labour Party - but it did represent the start of the fightback which eventually saw it return to power ten years later.

It may be that the best the Conservatives can hope for is a return to this scenario in 2005.

It might not be what they really want - but it would be an improvement on the current predicament.

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