New face at the head of Suffolk's Tories

PUBLISHED: 09:00 31 May 2002 | UPDATED: 12:01 03 March 2010

IT'S all change for the Tory group at County Hall this month as Jeremy Pembroke replaced Sue Sida-Lockett as group leader.

Mrs Sida-Lockett will be a tough act to follow for Mr Pembroke, who only won his seat at county hall a year ago.

IT'S all change for the Tory group at County Hall this month as Jeremy Pembroke replaced Sue Sida-Lockett as group leader.

Mrs Sida-Lockett will be a tough act to follow for Mr Pembroke, who only won his seat at county hall a year ago.

Now he has to create a strong fighting force out of a group that knows it's going to be only at the margins of power for the next three years at least.

And there are fears that by the time the county council is next due to be elected, its days may be very limited.

Mrs Sida-Lockett's departure from the front-line of her party's fight against the Labour-Liberal Democrat administration is a loss for it.

A naturally combative figure, she was always prepared to take the fight to her opponents – and her early battles with new council leader Jane Hore have already achieved legendary status in County Hall.

But after five years of opposition, it came as no surprise that she has decided to pursue her political interests in other directions.

She's a member of the Suffolk Police Authority, and I wouldn't be surprised to see her chairing that body one day.

Mr Pembroke is a somewhat more affable figure than his predecessor – I can't really imagine anyone disliking him.

He's a 60-year-old retired merchant banker who's only been involved in local politics for less than a year.

But he's clearly a quick learner. He soon took on the role as finance spokesman for the Tories.

And he led a strong opposition attack on the administration's budget in full council earlier this year.

It was an attack which provoked a strong reaction from Ms Hore – he clearly got under her skin.

"I'm looking forward to some exciting debates with the other parties – that's vital for local democracy," he told me.

I hope he keeps up these attacks in his new role – there is nothing worse than politicians from different parties having a love-in during council debates.

What we want to see is fire and passion in the council chamber – then meetings may be worth watching.

No one's looking forward to the Queen's visit to Ipswich more than the town's mayor, Richard Risebrow.

He'll be accompanying the Queen and Prince Phillip on their visit to the town's Waterfront area – but it won't be the first time he's had a role in jubilee celebrations in the town.

Last time the Queen came to Ipswich, for the Silver Jubilee in 1977, Mr Risebrow was on the Cornhill when she arrived there.

But he wasn't part of the official welcoming party in those days – he was a Morris Dancer taking part in the "warm-up" entertainment for the huge crowd that had gathered.

I've spent hours dredging our files of Silver Jubilee – and morris dancing – pictures, and I can't find any with our future mayor shaking his bells.

Of course, if anyone has any pictures of Mr Risebrow in full flight, we'd be delighted to publish it.

He tells me that he might be dusting off his bells for one or two charity fund-raising events during the year.

I do hope so, it would be great fun!

WE have a new Transport Secretary in the shape of Alistair Darling who has to pick up the pieces of a shattered department in the wake of the Stephen Byers fiasco.

He's known as a "safe pair of hands" – a highly effective and capable minister.

But am I the only person in the country left feeling uncomfortable about the prospect of the nation's transport policy being dealt with by a Scottish MP?

The simple fact is that Mr Darling has no role whatsoever in transport in his native country, in the country he represents in Parliament.

True, the same thing was true in his previous job as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – but the simple fact is that his new job is a much hotter potato than that.

Other Scots in parliament have roles which cover the entire United Kingdom – Gordon Brown is Chancellor of the Exchequer for the whole country and Robin Cook is leader of the House of Commons, all MPs.

But Mr Darling's new empire ends at Berwick-upon-Tweed – 58 miles away from his Edinburgh constituency.

So however bad the transport problems he's dealing with are, they aren't going to affect his own constituents.

When the Tories appointed an MP from an English seat as Secretary of State for Wales we heard squeals from Labour about "English colonialism."

Will they now defend us with cries of "Scottish colonialism?" I think not!

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