Tories need to bridge split in county

A WEEK on, and the fallout from last Thursday's elections is beginning to settle.The Conservatives at Endeavour House have the right to feel pleased by their perfomance as they breezed back into power.

A WEEK on, and the fallout from last Thursday's elections is beginning to settle.

The Conservatives at Endeavour House have the right to feel pleased by their perfomance as they breezed back into power.

But their success does not come without a cost - and in their case the downside is their failure to make any impression in Suffolk's largest towns.

They may have control of the County Council, the biggest employer in Suffolk, but they could not marshall their support in Ipswich and Lowestoft.

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They won one out of 13 county council seats in Ipswich - where they are outnumbered by Liberal Democrat county councillors - and none at all in Suffolk's second largest town.

In Ipswich Tories felt they were “stitched up like a kipper” with the new boundaries, according to parliamentary candidate Paul West.

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He said in the county elections in the town, Labour got 40 per cent, the Conservatives 34 pc and Liberal Democrats 26pc.

Yet the Labour won 10 out of 13 seats, with two for the Lib Dems and one Tory.

Conservative county council leader Jeremy Pembroke was concerned about the lack of Conservative representation from the large towns and pledged that they would not be forgotten by the new administration.

I hope he's right - one of the criticisms we heard from the Conservatives about the old Lab/Lib administration was that it was too focussed on urban issues and did not pay enough attention to the countryside.

Given the make up of the new county council, too much emphasis on countryside issues will make it look as if the Conservatives are just looking after their own.

So from that point of view, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the new administration paying an awful lot of attention to Ipswich and Lowestoft over the next few months!

ALTHOUGH they didn't win, there seems to be a general feeling that the Conservatives did well in the general election.

However that view isn't shared by everyone in the Tory party - South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo is one person who has called for a debate on the future direction of the party.

One Conservative councillor I was speaking to the other day was also very concerned.

He said: “I think the success we have had in winning several seats is potential very dangerous for the party. It's going to lull many people into a false sense of security.

“Our campaign was no good at all - it was aimed at the core vote and we didn't get any new people coming across to us.

“We pushed up our vote by 0.5 per cent, which is pathetic. Labour lost seats because some of their votes on the left went to the Liberals and in some cases they lost enough votes to the Liberals to let us in.

“In that respect, Blair was right to say voting Liberal would let us in - where he was wrong was that there weren't enough constituencies like that.”

He said the last thing the Conservatives should think is that this year's campaign was on the right lines - that one more campaign like that in four years time will bring victory.

“Another negative campaign like that and we'll go backwards. We didn't pick up any floating voters this time.

“The only reason the Labour vote fell was because their voters went to the Liberals because they knew we couldn't win.”

His views were partly shared by Ipswich candidate Paul West who felt it was a big mistake to brand Mr Blair a liar in the last week of the campaign.

“Until then the national campaign had gone well - but that put off voters and made it much more difficult for us. Whoever persuaded Michael Howard to go for that strategy was seriously mistaken,” he said.

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