Who will take over a unitary Ipswich?

SO who is likely to be the real winner in the biggest shake-up of local government in Suffolk since the early 1970s?Ipswich council fought a superb campaign to win unitary status.

SO who is likely to be the real winner in the biggest shake-up of local government in Suffolk since the early 1970s?

Ipswich council fought a superb campaign to win unitary status. The town undoubtedly deserves to run its own affairs and not be governed by councillors from rural areas who have no real knowledge of what it's like to live in a metropolitan area.

The next two years will see a great deal of work by both the borough and the county to set up new structures, and make sure there is an orderly transition when the new authority comes into existence.

However who runs the new council will be a very interesting matter - and that of course partly depends on how well Gordon Brown does in Downing Street over the next few months!

I still think the most likely time for the next general election is June 2009, but if the opinion polls continue to be as good for the new premier over the next six months as they have been over the last six weeks, Mr Brown might be unable to resist the temptation to go to the country next May.

That would be on local election day and ensure the local Labour party gets its supporters out to vote in the council, as well as the general, election.

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And if Labour gets its voters out in Ipswich, they will win a majority on the new council. If Labour mobilises its voters it will win all the seats in Sprites, Bridge, Westgate and St John's Wards.

It will win Rushmere and Whitehouse, and give the Liberals a run for their money in Alexandra. It could even make current council leader Liz Harsant some sleepless nights in Holywells. There will be no anxiety in Priory Heath.

That would bring Labour back into power at the borough - but who would lead the council?

David Ellesmere is the current leader of Labour at the borough and has made a pretty good fist of the job - making life difficult for the current administration but supporting them when the big issue made that necessary, for instance over unitary status and during last winter's horrors.

But he won't have life all his own way. There are Labour councillors across the road who have no intention of finishing their local government careers just yet.

Kevan Lim is deputy leader of the Labour group at Endeavour House and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him challenging for the leadership of the group.

Of course, if Mr Brown doesn't go for a general election next May the maths could be very different. The Conservative/LibDem coalition will think it can hang on in the all-out election.

It will certainly be one of the most exciting elections the town has seen, and could be very close. Based on this year's elections we could end up with almost any result.

If the current administration does hang on then Liz Harsant's position looks almost unassailable - the only Ipswich Tory from Endeavour House is hardly likely to challenge her . . . not unless Russell Harsant wants a very frosty time at home!

Whatever happens next spring, life at Grafton House is set to be very interesting for the foreseeable future!

I WAS delighted to see that the borough and the county have decided to stop balloon releases on their land, because of the damage they can cause to the environment.

While the trade organisation representing balloon manufacturers says there is nothing wrong with such launches and they don't cause any damage to the environment, the Marine Conservation Society tells a different story.

When it comes to knowing what is better for life in the oceans, the balloon industry or the Marine Conservation Society, I know which side I come down on.

The comments about balloons all being exploded into microscopic particles high in the atmosphere just doesn't seem to ring true to me - surely what goes up has to come down.

And even if some balloons do disappear into the sky, some of the latex inevitably does come down. And the fact is that this has been found in the stomachs of dead turtles, dolphins and seabirds.

If marine experts say that this has killed them, then I tend to believe them.

I have nothing against balloons as such - they are a welcome addition to any child's party, but they should be hung on to and not released into the atmosphere to come down as litter somewhere else.

RECENT by-elections in Ealing and Southall were dreadful for the Conservatives, but it is difficult to believe there are some members of the party who want to get rid of leader David Cameron.

It is difficult to work out whether he will ever be prime ministerial material, but the fact is he is by far the best leader the party has had since John Major in 1992.

For the first time since then, the party is being led by someone who doesn't come from the right of the party, and who can only appeal to its hard-core supporters.

For the first time the party has a leader who recognises that he has to reach out to floating voters, to attract those who have voted Labour or Liberal Democrat in the last three general elections.

If Mr Cameron's Neanderthal members who don't like that or go around muttering: “I don't know what the party stands for any more,” have their way then the party could well remain in opposition indefinitely.

It won't then be the case that the Tories are in opposition for a generation. They could be in opposition for a lifetime. And if they want to know what that feels like, they should ask their Liberal friends!