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Political scrapper never ducks fight

PUBLISHED: 14:30 09 October 2001 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 March 2010

JAMIE Cann first came to prominence in 1973 when he was elected to Ipswich Council.

He was born in north Lincolnshire in 1946 to parents who had moved to the area in search of work after leaving the valleys of South Wales.

JAMIE Cann first came to prominence in 1973 when he was elected to Ipswich Council.

He was born in north Lincolnshire in 1946 to parents who had moved to the area in search of work after leaving the valleys of South Wales.

He passed the 11-plus exam to go to grammar school, but it was an experience that scarred his life as he was separated from his primary school friends.

After leaving school he trained as a teacher, and that was what brought him to Ipswich in the late 1960s.

He started at the Bramford Road Primary school, in what is now the Suffolk Records Office. He moved with it when it became Handford Hall School.

Mr Cann's early days as a teacher in Ipswich persuaded him to join the Labour Party and become active in politics.

He saw the state of the homes that his pupils had to live in and became determined to improve them.

He was elected to the council and soon became chairman of the housing committee.

In 1976 Labour lost power – but Mr Cann became leader of the group. In 1979 when Labour regained power at Civic Centre, he became council leader – a position he held for 12 years.

In 1992 Mr Cann stood for parliament and overturned the slim Conservative majority in Ipswich – but by only 265 votes.

Five years later the majority was boosted to more than 10,000, and in June this year he was returned with an 8,081 majority.

He has always been happy to be a backbench MP and has had no wish to chase ministerial office.

But he was a member of the important Defence Select Committee of the House of Commons until this year's General Election.

Mr Cann is married to Rosie, who is also his secretary, and has two children – Jamie and Andrew.

The Ipswich MP has always been a controversial figure. Shortly after he became council leader he hit the headlines when he tried to ban trains carrying nuclear material from Sizewell from travelling through Ipswich.

During his time at Civic Centre, he oversaw the construction of the Crown Pools complex and also masterminded the deal which saw the construction of the Odeon cinema and the council takeover of The Regent theatre.

During his time in the House of Commons he has had a reputation as a loyal backbencher – but one who is not afraid to rebel if he feels the cause is right.

He was the first backbencher to rebel against the Labour government after it won power in the 1997 General Election – opposing plans to change the voting system for European elections.

He felt the new system, of party lists, would give party bosses too much power.

Mr Cann has also been critical of government policy on the reduction of the homosexual age of consent – and has been a persistent critic of moves to liberalise the abortion laws.

He is also one of the more Eurosceptic Labour MPs, and still talks proudly of how he voted against EEC entry in the 1975 referendum.

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