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Tories left to lick their wounds

PUBLISHED: 18:01 03 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:52 03 March 2010

DEVASTATED Tories in Ipswich were today wondering what to do next after being trounced at the polls in the town.

The party had hoped to end 23 years of Labour rule in Civic Centre – but ended up losing a third of their councillors as the party slumped to its worst borough defeat since the mid-1990s.

DEVASTATED Tories in Ipswich were today wondering what to do next after being trounced at the polls in the town.

The party had hoped to end 23 years of Labour rule in Civic Centre – but ended up losing a third of their councillors as the party slumped to its worst borough defeat since the mid-1990s.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats were celebrating.

Labour took all the seats in Stoke Park, St. Johns and Rushmere wards that the Tories had been confident of winning.

And they also retained Whitton – where the Conservatives had been offered encouragement by boundary changes.

"The results were devastating for us. I don't know where we go from here," said Tory county councillor and former group leader at Civic Centre Russell Harsant.

His wife, Elizabeth, was one of the few Conservative success stories on the night as she won a seat in Holywells Ward – the new name for St. Clements.

"That was a very good result, it looked even better as the night went on," said Mr Harsant.

"We've now got a stronghold in Bixley and a stronghold in Castle Hill on the other side of the town – and we won Holywells by sheer hard work.

"But I don't know where we go now, the situation doesn't look good for us."

Labour finished up with its biggest block of councillors since the mid-1990s – holding 35 of the council's 48 seats.

And the Liberal Democrats doubled their representation at Civic Centre with four seats – including one snatched from Labour in the Alexandra (formerly Town) Ward.

The Conservatives were knocked out of their former St Margaret's stronghold completely by the Liberal Democrats.

Their victorious candidates included John Cooper, a former Tory group leader who defected last year.

When he offered to shake the hand of his defeated Tory opponant David Brown, another former group leader, the offer was rejected.

"I was sorry about that – but I'm looking to the future, to serving the ward as a Liberal Democrat councillor," he said.

His party's biggest success on the night was in Alexandra Ward – the new name for the old Town ward which now includes a large area to the east of the town centre.

Liberal Democrat Jane Chambers beat Labour's Diane Hosking in that ward – the first time the party has claimed a seat from the ruling party.

"We won a seat from Labour! It shows we can win from both the other parties," said group leader Inga Lockington today.

Labour council leader Peter Gardiner was overjoyed by the overall result – although disappointed to lose the Alexandra Ward seat.

"This result exceeds all our expectations. We hadn't banked on winning all the seats in Rushmere and St John's – and we knew our opponents had high hopes in Stoke Park and Whitton.

"But we worked very hard in all these areas, and the results reflect that. We are all delighted – now we have to get back to work for the people of Ipswich," he said.

The turn-out in Ipswich was 32.2 per cent – 28,800 of the town's 89,500 electorate voted.

That was slightly up on the last borough elections two years ago – but has prompted new calls for universal postal voting to be trialled in the town.

In towns and cities where this has been tried, the turnout was significantly up – to about 50 per cent.


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