Party conferences fail to light the fuse for general election

The Labour poster showing getting David Ellesmere to Westminister is the party's top priority in Eas

The Labour poster showing getting David Ellesmere to Westminister is the party's top priority in East Anglia. - Credit: Archant

Party conferences are always something of an acquired taste – something to whet the appetites of political anoraks and to put fire in the belly of activists in the run-up to a general election.

So this year’s conferences, coming just eight months before we all go to the polls next May, should be major events with the parties setting out their stalls for the battle ahead. But something tells me the party leaders and their spin doctors would be much happier if they hadn’t happened at all this year.

Labour’s conference was positively lacklustre – the most memorable thing about it was that Ed Miliband forgot large sections of his speech about the economy and immigration.

I suspect the Conservatives would have settled for lacklustre at Birmingham as their conference opened to a backdrop of the Mark Reckless and Brooks Newmark controversies!

Sandwiched between them was the UKIP gathering at Doncaster which didn’t seem so much like a political event, just a fairly extravagant protest meeting with people being told who they should be cross with!

Next week the Liberal Democrats will be having the most pointless conference of all – everyone knows nothing will change what happens to them next May.

Their MPs with a strong local base – the Sir Bob Russells and Norman Lambs of this world – will be re-elected.

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Those who came in over the last couple of elections on a protest vote about the Labour government (like Simon Wright in Norwich and Julian Huppert in Cambridge) will struggle to finish second as radical voters punish them for their pact with the Tories.

What was noteworthy from the Labour conference so far as Suffolk was concerned was that Ipswich has been earmarked as one of the party’s six top targets in the whole country.

That means I’m sure we’ll see a steady procession of senior politicians from both main parties heading here to support David Ellesmere and Ben Gummer.

I’ve already been chided by Green candidate Mark Ereira for dismissing his chances in the seat. I’m sorry, Mark, but Ipswich has always been a two-horse race and it will be again next May.

The best the Greens can hope for realistically is to beat the LibDems and be jostling with UKIP to come third – but the two main parties will be light years ahead of them in the number of votes cast.

The only other seat in Suffolk that will see any kind of action during the campaign is Waveney where both Labour and UKIP fancy their chances – in fact a large UKIP vote there would be good news for Labour!

I spoke to one Tory MP this week who told me activists in the county would be splitting their time between Ipswich and Waveney – the rural seats will see very limited campaigning, as usual!