South Suffolk constituency profile

SOUTH Suffolk appears to be a traditionally prosperous Conservative seat.It is characterised by attractive countryside immortalised by Constable and Gainsborough puntuated by attractive villages and pleasant small towns.

SOUTH Suffolk appears to be a traditionally prosperous Conservative seat.

It is characterised by attractive countryside immortalised by Constable and Gainsborough puntuated by attractive villages and pleasant small towns.

These days it also includes a sizeable suburb of Ipswich - Pinewood - and the expanded community of Capel St Mary.

It's a long sausage of a constituency, from Shotley Gate in the east to Long Melford in the west.

But while shadow cabinet minister Tim Yeo may look quite safe, this comfort zone really only exists because the opposition is split.

In this seat Labour and the Liberal Democrats are jostling to show that they are in the best position to overtake the Conservatives - and are having to spend so much effort trying to establish themselves in a position for take-off that the Tories should not have too much to worry about.

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Partly this split is geographical - the Liberal Democrats are strong in the east of the constituency, on the Shotley peninsula, Capel St Mary, and Hadleigh, while Labour is stronger in the west - around Sudbury and Great Cornard.

The Liberal Democrats point out that they were the clear winners in the local elections for Babergh council two years ago and hold most of the county council seats in the constituency.

Labour can point to the last two general elections which had them in second place to Mr Yeo.

In short the anti-Tory vote is split, and it is this split that has allowed Mr Yeo to sit in the safest Conservative seat in Suffolk - even though his share of the vote was the lowest of any Tory in the county in 2001.

Tim Yeo, Conservative.

Mr Yeo was first elected to the House of Commons in 1983, and served in Conservative governments until 1994.

After his party's defeat in 1997, he joined the shadow cabinet and has been a key player in his party since then.

He is seen as on the left of the party, in the “One Nation” tradition.

He said: “This election feels quite different to the last two general elections, I think our supporters are more enthusiastic and I'm looking forward to a good result.

“The local issues that have attracted attention are the threat to health services in the west of the constituency and the proposed development at the Ganges site at Shotley.

“There are also serious transport problems for my constituents using Manningtree station.”

Kevin Craig, Labour.

Mr Craig is fighting his first general election, but he has already been a councillor in London for eight years.

He now lives in Sudbury with his Suffolk-born girlfriend and is hoping to cause an upset.

He said: “I am very encouraged by the analysis we are getting back from our work in this seat. I am not saying we are going to win - but we are in with a good chance.”

The future of the Walunttree Hospital in Sudbury had been a major issue with the constituency, and Mr Craig helped spearhead the successful campaign which resulted in a reprieve for the hospital.

“I'm also finding a generally good reception to our message across the constituency on issues like public services and the economy,” he said.

Kathy Pollard, Liberal Democrat.

This is the third time Mrs Pollard has fought the seat for the Liberal Democrats, having fought it in 1992 and 1997.

A senior member of the county council - she is deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group and a member of the executive - has given her a high profile, especially in the east of the constituency.

But she is confident that inroads her party has been making in the Sudbury area will pay dividends.

She said: “We have been winning seats in and around Sudbury where we haven't done that well in the past.

“We are the largest party on Babergh council and got the largest share of the vote in the local elections two years ago. I am confident we can win this seat.

James Carver UKIP.

UKIP is fighting the seat and hoping for a significant result after last year's strong show in the European elections.

Mr Carver said his party would take votes off all the other candidates: “We have been asked for a large number of our posters and they are going down very well.

“We have been finding supporters everywhere, from all backgrounds. We are not just taking votes off the Conservatives,” he said.

2001 Result:

Tim Yeo (Con) 18,748

Marc Young (Lab) 13,667

Tessa Munt (LD) 11,296

Derek Allen (UKIP) 1,582.

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