Suffolk MPs - how does yours measure up?

IN our second look at how public servants in Suffolk are performing, The Evening Star today shines a spotlight on the county's MPs.

IN our second look at how public servants in Suffolk are performing, The Evening Star today shines a spotlight on the county's MPs.

Each MP has his own character - but in some ways they are a familiar bunch.

Only Chris Mole was first elected in the 21st century, all are male and all have become part of the political landscape.

John Gummer is the longest serving MP in Suffolk - but seems to be as busy as ever - while Sir Michael Lord has decided to call it at day at the next election.

We have five MPs within our circulation area - two Suffolk MPs, Richard Spring and Bob Blizzard, have little impact on Star readers and so it would be impossible to judge them.

With a general election just months away, what kind of job are they doing - and on polling day do they deserve to be hired . . . or fired?

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And they are today on notice - we will be returning to look at their performance again in six months' time.

JOHN GUMMER, Suffolk Coastal (Con):

Profile: 4/5

Could hardly be higher. As an ex-cabinet minister with strong views on everything from the state of the NHS to green issues and church matters, Mr Gummer is rarely out of the headlines.

As well as being well-known locally and nationally, he is also an international expert on climate change issues which puts him in great demand at conferences around the world.

Accessibility: 3/5

When he is in Britain, whether in London or in his constituency, Mr Gummer can always be contacted and usually has a good grasp of any issue raised.

However his international work does sometimes make it difficult to get an instant response - you have to wait until he is in the taxi back to London from Heathrow.

Value for Money: 3/5

As well as his �64,766 ministerial salary, Mr Gummer earns a considerable amount from consultancy work and got into some trouble when the expenses row blew up this year - his claim for a mole-catcher caught the eye.

However he does spend a lot of time working on constituency issues so voters cannot feel they are being ignored.

Constituency knowledge: 4/5

Mr Gummer has been an MP for east Suffolk since 1979. His current constituency was formed in 1983 although it has been through some boundary changes.

He knows the patch very well - and there can be few voters in Suffolk Coastal who don't know he is their MP.

Energy and work-rate: 4/5

Mr Gummer is 69 going on 50. For a man of his age and experience he has great energy. He underwent a quiet period in the years after the 1997 election when he wasn't seen around quite as much, but over the last five years he seems to have got a second wind.

Total: 18/25 - 72 per cent.

TIM YEO, South Suffolk (Con):

Profile: 3/5

These days something of a Tory grandee even though he never quite made it into the top ranks of the government.

He is quite well known in his large constituency which extends from Shotley Gate to the west of Sudbury.

His national profile was higher than he would have liked 15 years ago when he was caught up in the Tories' Back to Basics controversy.

However while he returned to high position in the party when the Tories were first in opposition, he has since returned to the back benches and seems to have a lower profile than in the past.

Accessibility: 3/5

Usually happy to respond to any issues as they arise - but does not seem as proactive in the constituency as he was a few years ago.

Value for Money: 3/5

Like many senior backbench Conservatives Mr Yeo does have earnings in addition to his MP's salary, but he has a reasonably good reputation for taking up constituents' problems.

Featured only briefly in the MPs expenses revelations when it emerged he claimed expenses for a pink laptop computer!

Constituency knowledge: 4/5

He has been MP for South Suffolk since 1983 - during that time the constituency has shrunk slightly and he certainly knows his way around. He would be recognised by most of his voters.

Energy and work-rate: 3/5

He has always been seen as a hard-work and conscientious constituency MP - but he does seem to have slowed down slightly over the last two or three years since leaving the shadow cabinet.

Total: 16/25 - 64 per cent.

CHRIS MOLE, Ipswich (Lab):

Profile: 2/5

Ipswich has been a marginal constituency since 1970 and all the town's MPs since then have known they need to make their faces known.

As a junior transport minister he might have to spend more time in London or in regional meetings than in the past.

His ministerial duties also mean he has to toe the government line - meaning he is not seen as being as independent as some of his predecessors.

Accessibility: 4/5

Ministers can be difficult for constituents and the media to contact - but that is not true of Mr Mole. His offices in Ipswich and Westminster are happy to deal with constituency issues and he always answers his mobile phone to calls from the Star if he is able to.

Value for money: 2/5

In addition to his MP's salary Mr Mole also gets �31,401 as a junior transport minister. The constituencies of ministers always suffer from having a member effectively working part-time on their behalf and part-time as a minister.

Mr Mole juggles this reasonably well - but clearly has less time to devote to his constituents than a backbench MP.

Constituency knowledge: 4/5

He may only have been an MP for eight years, but he has lived in the area for much longer and was a county councillor for the town since 1985.

Like him or loathe him, voters in Ipswich know who their MP is - and many have already decided whether they will vote for or against him next year.

Energy and work-rate: 3/5

Mr Mole does work hard and his office deals with a large number of constituents' problems. Despite his ministerial duties he is frequently seen in and around the town. He knows he has a battle on his hands to hang on to his marginal seat.

Total: 15/25 - 64 per cent.

SIR MICHAEL LORD, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Con):

Profile: 1/5

He has represented the seat, which includes about a quarter of Ipswich, since 1983 - but regular surveys of the Whitton and Whitehouse area show that voters there think they are in the Ipswich constituency.

He spends most of his time at Westminster where he has been a deputy speaker of the House of Commons. He is retiring at the next general election and voters in his constituency may have a different style of MP this time next year.

Accessibility: 2/5

Holds regular surgeries for constituents, but has never been easy to contact for a response to issues that arise in his constituency.

Vale for money: 2/5

As well as his parliamentary salary, he also picks up �36,360 as a deputy speaker. Most of his work seems to be Westminster-based.

Constituency knowledge: 3/5

As MP for the area since 1983, Sir Michael should know his constituency well. It is a strange constituency - half the voters live in the urban areas of north Ipswich, Kesgrave and Rushmere while half live in rural Suffolk market towns like Framlingham and Eye.

At election time it often seems as if Sir Michael knows the rural areas much better than the urban end of the constituency.

Energy and work-rate: 3/5

Constituents who have turned to him for help are often full of praise for Sir Michael's efforts - but he finds it difficult to blow his own trumpet so it has never been seen as a particularly active MP.

Overall: 11/25 - 44 per cent.

DAVID RUFFLEY, Bury St Edmunds (Con):

Profile: 4/5

Suffolk's newest Tory MP - he was first elected in 1997 - is not the kind of person to hide his light under a bushel. He is always sending out press releases and campaigns proactively throughout his constituency.

Accessibility: 3/5

A couple of years ago he would have got an extra point here, but since being appointed to the Tory front bench - he is shadow minister for police reform - he has not been quite so easy to contact.

Value for money: 3/5

Shadow (junior) ministers don't get any extra salary despite having extra work to do - and he is clearly hard-working.

He was damaged during the expenses controversy by the revelation that he had bought an expensive television for his constituency home from a top London store rather than one of the many electrical shops here in Suffolk.

Constituency knowledge: 4/5

His constituency extends from Bury itself east as far as Needham Market. He is quite happy to turn up at events across quite a large rural area, and has built up quite a strong personal vote.

There really is little excuse for his constituents not to know who represents them.

Energy and work-rate: 3/5

Mr Ruffley still seems to do as much as ever in his constituency despite now being a Tory front-bencher. In ft it must be quite difficult for some of his older volunteers to keep up with the cracking pace he can sometimes set!

He is believed to be concerned that he could come under pressure from an anti-sleaze candidate (Terry Waite's name has been mentioned) although why Mr Ruffley should be under any more pressure than any other sitting MP is not clear.

Overall: 18/25 - 68 per cent