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Shake-up potential at County Hall

PUBLISHED: 11:41 09 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:36 03 March 2010

LIBERAL Democrat activists in Suffolk are preparing to step up their attempts to win a parliamentary seat in the county - and could break up the coalition at County Hall in the attempt.

LIBERAL Democrat activists in Suffolk are preparing to step up their attempts to win a parliamentary seat in the county - and could break up the coalition at County Hall in the attempt.

Suffolk is run by a Labour-Liberal Democrat administration, with the Lib Dems as very much the junior partner - they have 12 councillors compared with Labour's 35.

The opposition Conservatives have 32 councillors and there is one independent at County Hall.

Liberal Democrats in South Suffolk, the parliamentary seat currently held by Tory shadow cabinet minister Tim Yeo, have targeted that seat for the next general election.

In the last two elections they have come third in the seat, a short distance behind Labour, but it is their best target in Suffolk.

Local activists are keen to aim their message at disaffected Labour voters in an attempt to establish the party clearly in second place before they turn their fire on Mr Yeo during the campaign itself.

And many feel this is difficult if the party is in coalition with Labour at County Hall.

Liberal Democrat leaders at County Hall are not keen to break up the coalition - they agreed a four-year programme with Labour after county council elections last year.

However that was with former council leader Chris Mole, who is now MP for Ipswich, and some Lib Dems feel they would be justified in tearing it up because the key personnel in the administration have changed.

Some members of the council are concerned about the combative style of new council leader Jane Hore - but Liberal Democrat councillors insist this would not make them pull out of the administration.

"I'm not aware of anyone trying to make us pull out - if anyone was unhappy with the current situation I'm sure I would have heard about it," said Liberal Democrat group leader Peter Monk.

However other sources insist that the threat to the administration is real - which would lead to Labour having to run a minority administration.

That would mean it would not know from meeting to meeting whether it could get its policies approved.

There is no question of the Liberal Democrats linking up with the Conservatives to form an alternative administration.

Meanwhile Tory MP Tim Yeo, who holds the South Suffolk seat, was unworried about the Liberal Democrats' attempts to unseat him.

"It does sound as if they are being extremely cynical in this - but I'm really not worried.

"If this is their best hope in Suffolk, it shows just how weak they are in the rest of the county," he said.

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