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Political focus on town

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 March 2010

FOR the next two weeks, Ipswich will be at the centre of attention for political pollsters and spin doctors as the town's by-election campaign moves into top gear.

FOR the next two weeks, Ipswich will be at the centre of attention for political pollsters and spin doctors as the town's by-election campaign moves into top gear.

It's the first by-election of the 2001 parliament, and will give politicians in Westminster crucial information about how the government and opposition is doing at a difficult time.

Set against the background of the war in Afghanistan, security fears around the world, and the election of a new Conservative Party leader, there will be much for political students to analyse once the votes have been cast.

So far nine candidates have declared themselves in the running to succeed Jamie Cann as MP for the town – and there's still time for others to come in before nominations close tomorrow at 4pm.

Although the constituency is called Ipswich, it's worth remembering that it only covers three quarters of the town.

The four north western wards of Broomhill, Castle Hill, Whitton and Whitehouse will not be voting on November 22.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, by-elections tended to attract more national attention than they do now.

In those days whenever a seat held by the ruling party – the Conservatives – fell vacant, it was won by an opposition party.

That trend has not continued since Labour won power in 1997, and by-elections during the last parliament didn't tend to attract the same attention.

The only seat to change hands was Romsey in Hampshire, which the Liberal Democrats won from the Tories. They hung on to that in June's general election.

The turnout at the by-election is expected to low. Despite all the publicity they receive, by-election turnouts are almost always lower than in a general election.

Voters know that whoever they vote for in Ipswich on November 22, Tony Blair's Labour Party will still be in power at Westminster the following day.

But despite that, Ipswich will still be the centre of media attention during the run-up to the by-election.

We can expect reports from the town on national news programmes like BBC2's Newsnight and in heavy "broadsheet" newspapers – for many will be the only time they have come to Ipswich to report on anything apart from football!

Senior politicians, too, are booking up Saver tickets from London as if they're going out of fashion!

Cabinet minister Charles Clarke stopped off on his way from his constituency in Norwich to London to launch Labour candidate Chris Mole's campaign.

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox was at Ipswich Hospital yesterday (Weds) to boost Conservative Paul West's campaign, but the busiest party so far have been the Liberal Democrats.

Tessa Munt's campaign was launched by Lib Dem Home Office spokesman Simon Hughes, and she has also had a visit from the party's treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor.

Today she was being visited by party leader Charles Kennedy.

This election has also seen a number of smaller parties put up candidates.

Tony Slade is fighting the seat for the Green Party – he is a veteran of several parliamentary and European elections.

Peter Leech is the only candidate from June's general election to fight the seat again. He will be fighting for the Socialist Alliance.

Jonathan Wright has taken up the mantle of the UK Independence Party and John Ramierez is fighting on a Legalise Cannabis ticket.

Former Liberal Democrat councillor Dave Cooper is fighting the seat as a Christian Democrat and Nigel Harris is fighting for the World Party.

So far there has been no nomination from the Official Raving Loony Party or from Lord Buckethead.

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