Ipswich MP: 'Former Labour voters are now voting Conservative'

Ipswich Election count

The borough council elections in Ipswich led to some good results for the Conservatives - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

For the vast majority of the time that I’ve been the MP for Ipswich, my ability to get out and about and meet residents has been limited due to the pandemic.

Therefore, it’s been a pleasure over the past six weeks or so to be able to knock on so many doors and meet so many constituents.

A few people did ask me: “Do I only knock-on doors at election time?” The answer to that question is no.

Just after I got elected, I had an ambitious programme to start knocking on doors from day one, throughout the year. The only reason this hasn’t happened is that the law of the land has only allowed me to do so from mid-March.

This weekend, I intend to be back out knocking on doors and talking to constituents. My strong belief is that it is only by doing this that I can truly know what’s going on within an area.

I’ve done a number of surveys, both paper and online, over the past 18 months - but there is nothing like actually getting out into an area and meeting people in person.

The elections that have just passed are the most important local elections we’ve had for some time in Ipswich. We had not only both borough and county elections but also the Suffolk police and crime commissioner elections.

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In some ways, it felt like a bit of an odd election. There were far more people voting by post than usual and there weren’t the same number of polling stations, which I know was a concern for some of my constituents.

Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt said he understood why Mr Cummings would want to make such a trip -

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt believes more people are switching their votes from Labour to the Conservatives - Credit: Archant

I would, however, like to thank everyone who made the elections work in such challenging circumstances. All of the counting staff, polling station staff and other staff at Ipswich Borough Council - you all did a great job facilitating local democracy and making sure it all went so smoothly.

Usually, the party which is in government finds local elections challenging and therefore I was very pleased that we had such a successful night here in Ipswich. We made six gains from the Labour Party at the borough council and four at the county council.

Only one-third of the borough council seats were up for grabs, so the colour of the council overall was never going to change - but I do now believe that at a point in the not-too-distant future, it could.

For me, it was very pleasing to see us doing so well in some parts of town that have historically been seen as Labour strongholds.

We made strong gains in Chantry, winning the two county council seats from Labour, the Sprites borough seat from Labour and the third seat in Stoke Park from Labour.

However, probably the highlight for me was Gainsborough man Shayne Pooley winning the Gainsborough borough ward - the first time in history it’s been won by a Conservative.

Councillor Liz Harsant won the Gainsborough county division. This came as a bit less of a surprise, as it has different boundaries than the Gainsborough borough seat gain that certainly caught many by surprise. We have also won the county division before.

The reality is that, like at the general election, a number of former Labour voters are now voting Conservative. I was very honoured to receive their support and have done everything I can since that time to repay their trust.

I’m sure the new Conservative councillors will do just the same. They all have a very big job to do in their areas and I’m sure residents will be closely monitoring how they perform.

Many feel as though the Labour Party of old is no longer, and that the modern day Labour Party has drifted too far away from their values. Some even believe that it’s changed beyond all recognition.

Clearly, Brexit was a factor for some, as was Jeremy Corbyn. However, my belief is that it goes deeper than this and it’s wishful thinking for the Labour Party to simply assume that these voters will return to the Labour fold in the near future.

Politics is certainly changing and there are signs that there has been an electoral realignment across the country. Who a few years ago would have thought that Hartlepool would have been gained by the Conservatives in such a convincing fashion?

I think the Labour MP for Stockport, Khalid Mahmood - who last week resigned the Labour frontbench - couldn’t have put it better.

He stated: “Labour has lost touch with ordinary British people. A London-based bourgeoise, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors, has effectively captured the party.

“They mean well, of course, but their politics – obsessed with identity, division and even tech utopianism – have more in common with those of Californian high society than the kind of people who voted in Hartlepool.”

This is a more intelligent and measured response by far than what we saw from some local Labour figures last weekend.

One particularly bitter tweet, by leading Labour councillor Alasdair Ross, was about our Conservative candidate winning Gainsborough being "not great for Ipswich".

My reading of Shayne’s surprise victory is of a Gainsborough man through and through who has been part of the community for decades feeling privileged to serve his community. The very next day, he started knocking on doors to thank residents.

Councillor Ross should instead reflect on why Labour lost Gainsborough instead of lashing out at a successful candidate.

The reality is that politics across the country is extremely fluid at the moment and it is very hard to make predictions.

However, what is clear is that when it comes to local elections, more often than not it is those who work hard and deliver locally who are rewarded.

In the case of Gainsborough ward, something that the newly-elected councillors are acutely conscious of - as am I - is that it is one of the most deprived wards in the region. As local representatives, we have a responsibility to deliver.

No political party owns or is entitled to win any area or any part of our town. We have seen that over the past week.

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