That was the year in politics!

This year has been very busy for politicians in Suffolk - but ultimately 2007 will probably be remembered for what did not happen rather than what did!With the general election that never was, the 11th hour abandonment of proposals to give Ipswich unitary status, and big changes to the bus services that didn't happen, the year ends with the parties in much the same state as it started - but will anything really change over the months ahead?NATIONALLY 2007 was the year that Tony Blair finally handed over power to Gordon Brown after their party suffered a bruising at the polls.

This year has been very busy for politicians in Suffolk - but ultimately 2007 will probably be remembered for what did not happen rather than what did!

With the general election that never was, the 11th hour abandonment of proposals to give Ipswich unitary status, and big changes to the bus services that didn't happen, the year ends with the parties in much the same state as it started. Today I ask will anything really change over the months ahead?

NATIONALLY 2007 was the year that Tony Blair finally handed over power to Gordon Brown after their party suffered a bruising at the polls.

The Conservatives were riding high in the polls during the first half of the year, and this was reflected in the results in the local elections. Borough and district councils across the country went to the polls - and in Suffolk the Tories were triumphant in the rural areas.

Labour was annihilated in Babergh and Mid Suffolk. Only one Labour councillor was left in Suffolk Coastal district.

But in Ipswich the picture was rather different, with the Conservatives failing to take any further seats off Labour and leaving them nervous about some of the seats they hold in next year's elections.

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Nationally the picture was similar with the Conservatives doing well in opinion polls which showed that the public had lost faith in Mr Blair during his last few months in office.

However as soon as he stood down and Mr Brown took over, the national polls changed.

During the summer the former Chancellor of the Exchequer enjoyed a sustained honeymoon period with an electorate who seemed to think he could do no wrong.

His handling of the flooding crisis seemed sure-footed and even when foot and mouth was detected in Surrey, this did not seem to affect confidence in the government.

By the start of the conference season Labour had been enjoying a healthy lead in the polls for several months and speculation was mounting that Mr Brown would call an autumn election.

I had always felt an early election was unlikely - and pencilled in June 2009 as the likely date of the next poll. But as Labour's poll ratings continued to shoot up before and during its own party conference - and leading politicians themselves started giving broad hints that Mr Brown was tempted to go to the polls I began to think it was possible.

That was confirmed to me when we received a new set of photographs of Ipswich MP Chris Mole which were taken at the conference . . . just in case we needed them!

But how quickly things changed.

The Conservatives followed Labour's conference and singularly failed to do what they've become very skilled at over the last 15 years.

They decided not to attack each other and started going for the government instead. It soon became clear that David Cameron was not a contender for the upper-class twit of the year contest and was in fact a very capable party leader.

The Tories bounced back enough to persuade Gordon Brown not to gamble on an autumn election - a decision which sent Labour into freefall.

Since then a succession of blunders has left the government looking accident-prone, and has given the Tories a substantial lead in the polls heading to the new year.

Given the way the polls have gone over the last 12 months, it's difficult to know what will happen when we do go to the polls again.

Mr Brown almost certainly does want an election in June 2009, but he has the option of waiting until May the following year if things are looking grim at that time.

And the Tories cannot afford to be too complacent. Those of us who have been around for a few years can remember the period between 1990 and 1992 after John Major took over from Margaret Thatcher.

After an initial honeymoon period for the new prime minister, Labour took a substantial lead in the polls which lasted until the day of the general election in 1992.

Then, of course, the Conservatives won because the electorate preferred the devil they knew.

Today's Tories will be well aware that they could suffer a similar fate at the next general election.

WITHOUT doubt the most pathetic saga of the year was the attempt by Ipswich to gain unitary status.

This was an effort that consumed a great deal of time and effort - and no shortage of cash either.

Like many people I had doubts about the wisdom of seeking unitary status on the town's current boundaries, but having been told by the government that it was the only option on the cards then it was certainly something that should have been pursued.

Ipswich is different to the rest of Suffolk. The fact is that the administration at Endeavour House isn't really interested in urban matters.

The executive is made up of sons and daughters of rural Suffolk - and the fact that only one member of the ruling party represents an Ipswich seat tells its own story.

So Ipswich was right to try to break away from a county administration which doesn't seem to understand the needs of a growing urban centre.

The battle was tough, but seemed to have been won in the summer when the government gave the green light to the Ipswich bid.

It was then galling for everyone in the town when at the last minute Whitehall decided to change the rules.

Ipswich was no longer big enough to be given unitary status on its own. It would have to expand and a new report would look at all the boundaries in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Now that decision makes a great deal of sense. But why on earth did the government not realise that before?

Why did it not come to a conclusion that any student of politics could see was sensible at the very start of the process rather than at such a late hour?

Why did it allow our councils to spend thousands of hours and tens of thousands of pounds working on a scheme it kept giving the green light to, only to pull on the brakes as the new system was about to be introduced?

Frankly the way the decision was taken by the government looks worse than cack-handed, it looks as if the ministers had collectively taken leave of their senses!

A major disappointment in all this is that the MP for Ipswich was not able to express the town's anger to the minister involved . . . but that would have put him in a difficult position because he is the parliamentary private secretary to the minister for local government!

POLITICS had a big part to play in changes to the way Ipswich Buses are run over the year - and it even found itself caught up in spat with the government in the autumn.

At the start of the year The Evening Star was show documents which said that changes to the way the council-owned company was financed could lead to the loss of some services.

Bosses and senior councillors denied there was any immediate threat, but opposition councillors - including those on the company board - felt there was a real danger to some routes.

It was sometimes difficult to know how serious the threat was - Labour councillors who know the company inside out insist they were under threat.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who run the administration at Grafton House insist they were scaremongering.

Company chairman and Labour councillor Phil Smart was deposed and replaced by Tory transport spokesman Paul West. Mr Smart was later thrown off the board altogether.

And at the end of the year a fare increase caused great concern across the town - although fares were cut almost immediately after the government confirmed that a tax rebate for public transport operators would be re-instated.

SO what will next year hold for politics in Suffolk?

May's elections in Ipswich will seem like an anti-climax after the town geared up for an all-out unitary poll.

The Conservatives will be in the tough position, for them, of defending two seats that they have lost over the last two years - St John's, and Bridge - while Labour also hopes to win two or three other seats which would be enough to make it the largest party at Grafton House.

Nationally there will be no general election last year and Labour will be hoping to restore its reputation for competence.

It's got a lot of work to make up - but as 2007 proved, a year is a very long time in politics!

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