Politics moves up a gear - in Ipswich and Westminster

Jack Abbott, former Suffolk County Council councillor, has been selected as candidate for Ipswich MP 

Jack Abbott and his team will be aiming to win Ipswich back for Labour. - Credit: IPSWICH LABOUR

Politics in Ipswich look set to move into a very different phase over the next few months after Labour finally confirmed that Jack Abbott would be its candidate at the next general election and the leadership election for the Tory Party moved up a gear.

Mr Abbott's selection at the weekend was, in truth, the least surprising political story we've seen in Suffolk for years.

When he stood down from Suffolk County Council last year the feeling always was that he was making that move to go on to another level - I don't think anyone thought that we had heard the last from Mr Abbott.

For years he's always been one of the keenest campaigners for the Ipswich Labour Party and that hasn't changed at all over the last 14 months.

And as an accomplished PR professional, Mr Abbott has often been the "Ipswich Labour spokesman" on a number of issues. Well now he has the position he needs to get the party's message across.

All this means the next general election - whenever it comes - is going to be a very interesting contest between Mr Abbott and sitting Tory Tom Hunt.

Campaigners have been unable to knock on doors as they try to attract votes. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Tom Hunt and his team will be trying to fight off the threat of the new Labour candidate. - Credit: Archant

They are two very different characters - Mr Hunt is seen as being on the populist side of the 21st century Tory Party while Mr Abbott is a very loyal supporter of the current Labour leadership (Don't mention the word Corbyn anywhere near him).

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Could Mr Abbott be making a pitch for some traditional "One Nation" Tories while Mr Hunt is trying his populist tack on the council estates which used to be Labour strongholds?

I still think we're nearly two years away from the next general election. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister in September will want 18 months to make his or her name in Downing Street.

This week's Confidence Motion put down by Labour was a pretty pointless publicity stunt.  We all know most Tory  MPs don't have confidence in Boris Johnson - that's why he resigned - but most want the quickest possible election of his successor and if that means they have to have him as an emasculated caretaker for a few weeks then so be it.

The fact that there was no time for the motion to be debated was neither here nor there - at times like this there is little the opposition can do apart from trying to make a bit of noise to remind political journalists that they're still about!

We do keep hearing that the new PM will need his or her own majority pretty quickly from a general election. That's not true.

In General Elections we don't vote for Prime Ministers. We don't even vote for governments. We vote for MPs who then endorse a PM and government.

It is perfectly reasonable to expect a new PM to have 18 months or so to put his or her mark on the House of Commons - certainly John Major did that in 1992 and it paid off for him.

So I'm still putting my money on May 2024 - unless something else unforeseeable happens that changes things completely.

And returning to Ipswich, I now expect to see a real ding-dong on the town's streets over the next 21 months as the two candidates thrash out their offer to the town.

Because it will be either Mr Hunt or Mr Abbott who ends up representing the town in the House of Commons. 

The Liberal Democrats and Greens may dream of coming through the middle, but in Ipswich that isn't going to happen - it's a classic two-party marginal.

And the start of the battle for the heart of the town in the next election has just been signalled.