When will the campaign take off?

APPARENTLY the election campaign of 2009 is now in full swing - although it doesn't really seem to have caught fire despite claims from the parties that they're hard at it.

IT seems the election campaign of 2009 is now in full swing - although it doesn't really seem to have caught fire despite claims from the parties that they're hard at it.

I suspect they know that both the county council elections and European elections are foregone conclusions - that the Tories will win well, that the minor parties will largely be marginalised, and that Labour politicians will start sniping even harder at Gordon Brown's heels.

There is no doubt that the Tories will be the big winners this year. They have got themselves into the right mentality to fight and win elections.

After a 15-year hiatus they seem to have cottoned on nationally that it is better to fight your political opponents than fight yourselves.

In Suffolk that means they know they should be able to retain their control of the county council - a control they won back four years ago after 12 years of a Labour/LibDem administration.

The big question in the elections in Suffolk remains will the Tories be able to make serious inroads in Ipswich?

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It would probably be good for the county council administration if they did - because that would make it impossible for the political leadership of the county to continue to ignore the town.

There has been a lamentable lack of understanding of Ipswich issues, and urban issues in general, among the county administration over the last four years.

The determination by the county to press ahead with a new fire station at a location that no one in Ipswich wanted - only for the decision to be vetoed by the government - is just one example of how the rural mafia have ignored the needs of the county's towns over the last four years.

A few more urban Tories, bringing an understanding of the issues facing town-dwellers, would be a welcome addition to an administration that has often seemed deaf to the concerns of those who don't live in the countryside or in attractive little market towns.

Labour in Ipswich will be fighting hard to retain its position in the elections - but has an uphill task to retain 10 of the 13 seats in the town.

The Liberal Democrats could also be squeezed - recent borough council elections have suggested that the town is edging back to its traditional two-party make-up and that could be bad news for Andrew Cann and Inga Lockington.

But what has struck me so far is the lack of campaigning that is currently under way. People aren't being bombarded with leaflets, finding canvassers on their doorsteps all the time, and you aren't seeing the usual forest of posters up all over the place.

Do the parties know this is a foregone conclusion and are saving their efforts for next year's general election?

As for the European election, the main interest seems to focus on where and when the BNP will turn up and make a nuisance of themselves.

There is some interest in seeing if UKIP will be able to maintain even a single seat in the region now that neither of its MEPs elected last time around are standing for the party again.

It was interesting to see that party invoking the spirit of Sir Winston Churchill in its campaign launch last month - perhaps someone really should have told them that in the years after the Second World War Churchill was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the original Common Market!

EVEN before his party is mauled at this year's elections the knives are being sharpened by Gordon Brown's colleagues.

Cabinet pygmy Hazel Blears sounded off about the party's need to campaign with a stinging attack on his leadership at the weekend - and you have to admire the sheer brass neck of the woman to then deny she was having a go at her boss.

Saying “You Tube if you want to, but there's no substitute for going out campaigning” at the end of a week when the prime minister came under fire for going online was an obvious attack on him.

His comparatively weak position was shown by the fact that she wasn't sacked on the spot - maybe Mr Brown feels he has enough troublesome ex-cabinet members already with the likes of David Blunkett and Charles Clarke taking every opportunity presented to them to show they don't know the meaning of the expression party unity!

Mr Brown has his faults - but in the current economic climate he is the only person in his party with the authority to lead the country.

Does anyone seriously think that with Harriet Harman or David Milliband in Downing Street all our economic troubles would be over? The only difference would be that no one outside Westminster would recognise them!

Britain is suffering from being in a world recession - it wasn't caused by Mr Brown and his government, it was caused by a collapse of the banking system that had been encouraged by governments around the world.

And the sooner that members of his party recognise that changing the captain will change nothing about how their party is seen in the country the better.

If the Blears, Blunketts, and Clarkes of this world want a change in leadership they would do better to wait 15 months - and have the argument when their party is in opposition.

Because sacking Gordon Brown will lead to a far heavier defeat than will happen otherwise.