Nervous times for Ipswich politicians

POLITICIANS in Ipswich are today getting geared up for the elections they never expected to face - elections that are potentially the most interesting since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration was formed four years ago.

POLITICIANS in Ipswich are today getting geared up for the elections they never expected to face - elections that are potentially the most interesting since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration was formed four years ago.

It was in June 2004 that Labour had a terrible year in the town and lost seats hand over fist to the opposition, meaning it lost power for the first time since 1979.

Now the seats it lost then are up for grabs again - and despite national poll misery, Labour politicians in Ipswich feel they could mount a comeback.

The Tories are defending two seats they have not won since that great year for them - Bridge and St John's - and if Labour repeat their achievements of 2006 and 2007 they are guaranteed to win them back.

And Labour also hope to win back the Whitehouse seat after their success in that ward last year. If they win those three seats, that will leave them as the largest single party on the council, although not with enough seats to form an administration.

However, Labour also have hopes of grabbing seats back in Rushmere, Alexandra, and Whitton which would leave the council in a dead-heat.

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Meanwhile, the Tories hope to win an extra seat in Sprites and, possibly, a gentrified Priory Heath boosted by the lush avenues of Ravenswood.

And the Liberal Democrats will be hoping to add a second seat in Westgate to accompany their leader Andrew Cann at Grafton House.

Already deputy council leader John Carnall is expected to switch from the marginal seat of St John's to the rock-solid Tory heartland of Bixley.

That's a sensible move - Labour's then leader Peter Gardiner switched to Gipping faster than you could say new boundaries back in 2002 when private houses of The Crofts were switched from Castle Hill to Whitton.

I suspect Labour will make some inroads into the administration's majority but it will do very well to win all three seats it is targeting - the Liberal Democrats' Anthony James has made a big impression during his four years representing Whitehouse.

All the parties are really looking forward to the day when new councils come into existence in Suffolk - and that could make life much more difficult for Labour.

They could well have to wait until there is a Conservative tenant in Downing Street before they are back in power in Ipswich.

WILL Network Rail ever be sorted out? If there was an award for sheer blind incompetence, this company would surely win hands down.

After all the problems over Christmas, passengers had the right to expect the company to have learned its lesson by the time it undertook major work over Easter.

But no, all the same problems reared their ugly heads again - the work over-ran and Network Rail didn't bother to tell the train operator National Express.

It was difficult to know whether to be surprised that they hadn't learned their lesson - or to expect that their incompetence would shine through again!

The government and the Rail Regulator really do have to take some action against Network Rail - and not a meaningless gesture like fining them millions of pounds.

A fine has to be paid by someone - and as Network Rail is a not-for profit company, any fine will ultimately have to be paid by the poor passenger who has already lost out.

Heads must roll at all levels of this dreadful organisation.

Those who planned the Christmas and Easter track closures must be sacked - or at least transferred to the rail line between Wick and Thurso in the far north of Scotland!

A welcome sign that the government was taking the problems with this company seriously would be to strip boss Sir Ian McAlister of the knighthood he was awarded on the same day as Network Rail was fined for its Christmas disaster.

POLITICIANS get involved in controversies with church leaders at their peril as Gordon Brown has found this week.

However, when there is a clash between the secular government and church leaders, the duty of the government has to be firstly on making life better in this world not preparing us for the next.

So I hope doctors and scientists are allowed to look for cures and treatments for some of the most terrible diseases that afflict this world.

And am I the only person who has difficulty in reconciling the concern for the “human rights” of a few cells that could exist on a pinhead when there does not seem to be same degree of concern for the human rights of people with horrible diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's who might be helped by the research currently being undertaken.

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