Political heat up as elections loom

IF anyone was unaware of the fact that there is are elections to the county council just months away, the events at last week’s county council meeting will have confirmed that.

I can understand the irritation of the opposition over the Conservative administration’s determination to change the emphasis of the debate about 20mph speed limits, but I do wonder if this would have happened if we were eight months after an election rather than eight months before the polls.

I do think it was significant that the walk-out was led by Labour, which are currently the third party at Endeavour House, rather than the LibDems who are the official opposition.

In fact there was very much a rump of LibDems at the meeting – nearly half the group were not there for one reason or another.

At next year’s election there is a general belief that Labour will make major gains in the county. Some of its most optimistic supporters think it could return to the leadership of the council that it had during most of the 1990s and until 2005.

I don’t think the Tories are unpopular enough to lose power next year – but I’m certain Labour will end with many more seats than the LibDems.

It’s not that the LibDems in Suffolk have done much wrong – their opposition to many of the cuts pushed through by the Tories has been vocal and sustained.

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But it’s been difficult for them to effectively ride two horses travelling in different directions – attacking the Tory administration in Suffolk for its cuts while backing the coalition government in Westminster which has reduced its support for councils forcing them to make the cuts in the first place.

In Ipswich Labour thinks it can win 10 of the 13 seats in next May’s county council elections and is also reasonably confident about making a comeback in Suffolk’s other large towns: Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, and Haverhill.

But it’s ambitions of power look remote – it may have led the council between 1993 and 2005 but it was only as head of a coalition with the LibDems.

And most of the vulnerable LibDem seats in May will come under threat not from Labour, but from the Conservatives.

Can you really see Labour councillors for Woodbridge, Needham Market, or Hadleigh?

But one thing’s certain – the chances of the Conservatives holding 55 of the 75 seats at Endeavour House after the next election are virtually nonexistent.

It all adds up to a return to two-party politics with a vengeance after May – so be ready for some right ding-dongs in the council chamber . . . and a surprising amount of bonhommie between councillors of both sides in the members’ area and Endeavour House cafe before and after some pretty heated council meetings.

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