New mayor savours every minute

IT WAS the cruellest twist on a bad night for his party.Labour was losing seats all over Ipswich and the man chosen to be the next mayor of the town – who had been planning for his year in office – found himself booted off the council.

IT WAS the cruellest twist on a bad night for his party.

Labour was losing seats all over Ipswich and the man chosen to be the next mayor of the town – who had been planning for his year in office – found himself booted off the council.

But two years on things are very different.

Richard Risebrow has been back at Civic Centre for 11 months, since a by-election on general election last year.

His party touted the opposition at this year's crucial local elections, reversing the defeat that lost his old seat. He was re-elected with a handsome majority and has finally won the chain of office.

He's now watching his diary of engagements fill up and looking forward to an action-packed 12 months.

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But the events of May 2000 still grate.

"It was devastating. I've said in the past that it did feel like a bereavement in the family at the time. We'd made all kinds of plans for the year – right down to the hymns for the Civic Service.

"In a sense I suppose it is making this year even more special – but it's always going to be special when you're mayor," he said.

Nothing quite prepares you for the intensity of work that the mayor has to do.

"I've known all the mayors of Ipswich for many years, and I've been good friends with many of them," Richard said.

"They've all said what a lot of work you have to do, but until you're actually in the job you don't know exactly what it's like," he said.

This year will have many highlights. One of the earlier ones will be the visit of The Queen and Prince Phillip to Ipswich as part of her golden jubilee celebrations.

Mr and Mrs Risebrow will meet the royal couple when they arrive in the town and accompany them on a tour of the Waterfront before they leave Ipswich for Stowmarket and Bury St. Edmunds.

Another highlight for Mr Risebrow will be a cruise on Ipswich's adopted warship HMS Grafton from Glasgow to its home port of Portsmouth.

"Grafton isn't coming to Ipswich this year, but there was an offer of a trip on the vessel as an auction prize at the mayor's ball this year.

"Eddie King bought the trip and invited me along as his guest – it's something I'm really looking forward to, something you wouldn't normally be able to do," Mr Risebrow said.

Later in the year he will be in big demand for events in the run-up to Christmas, including the switch-on of the town's festive lights.

But his real highlight is something which isn't yet in the diary.

"I really want to see Ipswich Town win promotion to the Premiership before the end of my term of office, so I can host a civic reception for them in the Town Hall," he said.

"If the club does a Manchester City, it will be promoted by the end of April and I'd love to be with them on the balcony – everyone who was here remembers the reception after they won the play-off final," he added.

But Mr Risebrow assured the town's citizens that the dignity of the role of mayor will be retained if Ipswich are promoted during his year in office.

He promised he wouldn't repeat his appearance in blue and white paint at Wembley in 2000 – at least not while he's wearing the chain of office!

WHILE on the subject of our new mayor, it was good to see him being chauffeured around Ipswich in a rickshaw as his contribution to Don't Choke Britain day on Tuesday.

I bet there were thousands of motorists who wished they weren't stuck in their cars a week ago today on the first day of the Suffolk Show.

Every year we hear from the organisers of the show and the highway authorities that they've solved access problems.

And every year the first day of the show is a traffic nightmare which reduces the whole of Ipswich to a standstill.

Local politicians don't want to know about the problems because they haven't a clue what to do, and officials don't seem able to solve things presumably because by the time they've got round to forming a committee, the problem has been solved for another year because that's how long it is until the next show.

But for heaven's sake they need to get together to sort things out before many people start to solve the problem for themselves – by staying away from the show.

"We had planned to go to the show – we love the Suffolk Show, and we were off for half term," a friend of mine told me.

"But we heard the reports of traffic chaos as we were planning to leave home in Ipswich at 9am and decided to go to Norwich for the day instead."

How many others will make the same decision before something sensible is done about the traffic problems the show creates?

WE all know that the deputy Prime Minister has earned himself the nickname "Two Jags" because of his fondness for the luxury British car.

But when I saw this picture of the outside of 10 Downing Street, I was left wondering if John Prescott's boss was trying to outdo him by becoming Tony "Two Doors" Blair.

Apparently workmen were installing a new security door on the outside of Number 10, but this picture certainly managed to raise a smile.

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