Prime minister learns about town

AS SOON as the prime ministerial cavalcade swept on to the Waterfront leading towards the shining new UCS building, Gordon Brown was impressed by the new developments rapidly taking shape.

AS SOON as the prime ministerial cavalcade swept on to the Waterfront leading towards the shining new UCS building, Gordon Brown was impressed by the new developments rapidly taking shape.

He was met by Ipswich MP Chris Mole who was able to point out the massive changes that have transformed the industrial wet dock into the modern Waterfront over the last two decades.

But while Mr Brown was impressed by the new building work he could see all around, he was - if anything - more impressed by the manner of the town's transformation as he was by the transformation itself.

During his talk to business and civic leaders in the shiny new UCS building, Mr Brown was quick to praise what he had seen during his short visit to the town.

His love of Suffolk was well-known - his holiday in the north of the county last August clearly went down very well with the whole Brown family.

He told his audience at UCS: “It is a great pleasure to be back in Suffolk. We are always talking about our wonderful holiday here - and my wife and sons know the weather is always perfect in this part of the world!”

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But while north east Suffolk and the beaches near Southwold are only 30 miles away from Ipswich, culturally they are a million miles away.

And Mr Brown recognised how important the redevelopment of the county town had been for the whole area.

“What a wonderful area the university is in, as a key part of the �1 billion redevelopment of the Waterfront,” he said.

“What is particularly pleasing is the way this has been achieved as a partnership between the public and private sectors - it is a real beacon of how the different sectors of the economy can work together,” he said.

Speaking after the visit, Mr Mole said the prime minister would have much to take away from his visit to Ipswich.

He said: “The prime minister was very interested to see how the public/private partnership was working here in Ipswich - I know he took that away with him at the end of his visit.

“We didn't have very long to see the Waterfront, but you don't need a long visit to be impressed by all the new development here.

“And he was delighted to hear how that development was being boosted by training opportunities.

“The fact that the UCS building, helping to train future generations of skilled workers, is part of the Waterfront development is a significant sign for the town.”

WHILE the prime minister learned much about Ipswich during his visit to the town, business and civic leaders across the area learned much from Mr Brown.

His audience was told about the help the government could offer businesses under the “Real Help for Businesses” banner - and his staff who were on hand were able to give some practical advise over issues they raised.

Mr Mole said Jobcentre Plus staff were investigating a query raised by Ipswich businesswoman Shirley Shelley about rules about part-time workers claiming benefits.

“I am sure that many of the people who were there at the seminar will have taken something positive from it - I was very impressed by the way it was run.

“There was a real effort to give people practical advice. The feedback I have received indicated that people really appreciated that.”

Mrs Shelley felt the prime minister had not answered her question, but remained hopeful that she would get a reply.

“He didn't seem to really understand the problem my people are facing, but he took notes and said someone would get back to me.

“I don't know if any good will come out of it - but he did seem to be listening. It did seem as if he was genuinely interested in what we had to say.

“Sometimes politicians can just glaze over when they talk to people like us - but that wasn't the case with him.

“And I'm glad he came to Ipswich. It put us on the map.” She added.

ONE tangible souvenir Mr Brown took from the meeting was a replica Ipswich Town shirt with Brown 10 on it.

Mr Brown received the replica away team shirt from Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover after a private meeting to discuss this newspaper's Fightback campaign.

The prime minister is known for his love of the beautiful game, although in the past he has attracted criticism from north of the border for encouraging his native Scots to support England in major tournaments.

There are two Scottish league teams in his Fife constituency - Kirkaldy-based Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath. Diplomatically he cannot express an opinion, but talking to him there is little doubt that Raith is “his” team.

The Town shirt was chosen because it is Labour red rather than Tory blue - and Mr Brown seemed delighted to accept it.