Risky to be in third place

MANY people were surprised when Labour threw in the towel at Civic Centre and launched their “back us or sack us” call to the minority Liberal Democrat group.

MANY people were surprised when Labour threw in the towel at Civic Centre and launched their “back us or sack us” call to the minority Liberal Democrat group.

But while this guarantees the town a minority Conservative administration for the next 19 months at least - there are no borough elections next year - I can't help feeling that the move could be disastrous for the Lib Dems.

The Liberal Democrats in Ipswich have been caught between a rock and a hard place - but that's always the risk when you're the third party fighting for power.

In St Margaret's Ward, which they have built into a pretty solid fortress, they've attracted votes from disaffected Tories and from Labour supporters who see them as the only way of keeping the Conservatives out.

It's the opposite scenario in Whitehouse and Alexandra wards, both traditional Labour territory.

Here, they have attracted disaffected Labour voters and Tories, who see them as the only way of keeping Labour out.

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There are, of course, die-hard Liberal Democrats in all these wards - but I suspect they don't make up the majority of the party's support there.

This gives them a huge problem - disaffected Labour voters who hate the Tories more than they dislike their own party will be angered if the vote they “lent” the Lib Dems lets the Conservatives into power.

And disaffected Tories who lent their vote may feel they might as well vote for their own party if the Lib Dems are prepared to work with them.

That is the dilemma the Lib Dems face - and with the election system in Ipswich they aren't going to have four years to establish their role in a coalition, as their colleagues did at County Hall.

I suspect Labour took this scenario into their calculations when they decided to resign from the executive - maybe it's the start of their fightback in Whitehouse and Alexandra.

I SEE that the issue of Sunday opening of libraries has once again raised its head in the debate about council tax.

No one wants to see council tax wasted - but I do hope that any suggestion of shutting libraries on Sundays is quickly dismissed.

The cost is minimal - the buildings, books and computer terminals are sitting there anyway - and it enables those who can't visit during the week to pop in.

If you're retired you can go to the library any day of the week, but if you are working and have a young family, your opportunities are limited.

So look for cost-savings by all means, but don't cut out a valuable service just because of the selfish whingeing of people who have no need to use it anyway!

RAIL passengers across the region will have heaved a sigh of relief with the re-opening of Ipswich tunnel on Monday.

The upgrading of the line between Felixstowe and London to accommodate large containers has gone better than most people expected.

It represents the completion of the Felixstowe to Nuneaton freight upgrade - but what is now needed is the real start of the 'real' Felixstowe to Nuneaton upgrade, so trains can use the cross-country line rather than the already-busy main line to London.

I can't work out the logic of shoving all freight trains from Felixstowe to the north of England around London when there is a cross-country route which needs upgrading.

They've used the cross country route for the last eight weeks, so surely it can't be that inefficient!

You don't see lorries from Felixstowe to Birmingham heading down the A12 and round the M25. Why do we do that with the trains?

So come on Strategic Rail Authority, or Network Rail, or Alastair Darling, or whoever's running the rail industry this week. Pull your fingers out and get the cross-country route modernised as well.

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