Time for new leadership at IBC

Ed-Balls-and-David-Ellesmere-17th-Apr-15So Ipswich has voted for five more years of Ben Gummer as the MP – well 45% of them did, and that’s usually considered a majority when Labour get that much of the vote.

They also voted for the Tories at the council – though by a much lower margin.

Yet we don’t seem to have any change. By all accounts, Labour are going to fudge their AGM on Monday and elect David Ellesmere to remain as the Borough leader.

I like David. I think he has good in his heart, and I think he believes that Labour’s policies are better than the Tories. I think he believes that the Tory market ideology is wrong for the town and wrong for the country. And I think he is wrong there – rather than focussing on systems and structures, the only focus should be on outcomes, and where the market is capable of producing a better outcome it should be allowed to.

But the fact remains that regardless of how well-meaning David is, he stood on his record as council leader – and he lost.

I’m sorry David, but I think you have to go. It is time for new leadership at Ipswich Borough Council – leadership that will focus on working with the new leadership at SCC, and the MP, rather than on ensuring dividing lines for partisan gain. Ipswich desperately needs a leader who will work with others to deliver for everyone. Perhaps David has the capacity to become that leader. But his record – the one he ran on – doesn’t show that yet.

No pleasure from seeing an honourable man lose his dream

Journalists, bloggers and politicians. We all live this symbiotic relationship. Journalists and bloggers need access to politicians to make sure our stories are accurate and that we’re reporting the “news” to our readers. Politicians need access to journalists and bloggers to ensure that they get their message across to the maximum number of potential voters.

Yet it is a product of this symbiotic relationship that we bloggers come to know politicians better than our readers do. We have to be careful not to get too close, because that can interfere with objectivity. But some politicians become friends, others acquaintances.

It was with this in mind that I was suddenly faced, in the early hours of Friday morning, with the knowledge that one such politician, for whom I had developed a growing respect, had missed his ambition. David Ellesmere had clearly wanted to be the town’s MP for a long time, and to be rejected by the electorate must have hurt. To then have journalists shoving microphones in his face, jotting down his thoughts in short hand, seemed almost cruel.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have found it much more difficult to interview Ben Gummer after a loss. But that doesn’t mean I had any pleasure in watching David’s dream crumble to ashes before him. He fought a valiant campaign, but was unable to beat the relentless positivity of Mr Gummer.

Mr Ellesmere now wants to return to being Leader of the Council, with his name going before the Labour Group AGM on Monday. I think that’s a mistake for him. He deserves some time away from the front line of Ipswich politics. After all, he did run his campaign on his record as council leader, and that record was rejected by the public, both at the General Election and in the Borough Election, where the Tories gained five seats, four of which came from Labour. The Ipswich public clearly want a new direction here in Ipswich – and Mr Ellesmere doesn’t represent that new direction.

What is it with politicians becoming unlikely sex symbols?

Milifans-hit-IpswichEd Miliband visited Ipswich earlier today, as his unexpected cool status suddenly became mainstream.

Mr Miliband was in town as part of a regional tour including Cambridge, supporting his Labour candidate David Ellesmere, and dozens of students jostled with Labour Party activists to get selfies with him – many more than when David Cameron last visited the UCS Waterfront campus.

Mr Miliband has suddenly found that he has thousands of fans who think he’s cool and sexy, and he isn’t the only politician to find himself the target of fans from an unexpected direction.

Ben Gummer, Tory Candidate for Ipswich, photoshopped by the "Ipswich MP Fan Club" Facebook Page.

Ben Gummer, Tory Candidate for Ipswich, photoshopped by the “Ipswich MP Fan Club” Facebook Page.

Tory candidate for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, also has a Facebook page dedicated to photographs of him “looking sexy” called “Ipswich MP Fan Club” – describing Mr Gummer as “bringing sexy back” to politics.

Joking aside, the campaign is closer than ever. Voters on the streets of Ipswich seem genuinely split 50/50 between Labour and Tory – though Ben Gummer has slightly higher name recognition, probably because he’s spent five years as the town’s Member of Parliament. If it keeps going down to the wire, it could be the ground war that decides it – which side has more activists getting their vote out on polling day. With postal votes already hitting doorsteps, hundreds, if not thousands, of Ipswich voters will already have voted. The Press Association expect a result in Ipswich by 4am on 8th May. That’s looking increasingly optimistic.

Culture Secretary blows into town to support Ben Gummer

Gummer-Selfie-with-Sajid-JavidTory Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid visited Ipswich today to boost the campaign of incumbent Ben Gummer, who is in the fight of his life to hold onto the seat against Labour’s council leader candidate David Ellesmere.

Mr Javid blew into town almost an hour late, after being delayed on his way from Norwich because the overhead wires were brought down by the wind. He visited a couple of shops on St Peter’s Street, answered a couple of questions from journalists, before posing for photographs – including a Gummer Selfie – with campaign volunteers.

He rushed off to meet the train back to London, facing a long trip back to the capital because of the ongoing rail problems caused by weather.

Sajid-Javid-&-Ben-Gummer-answer-journalists-questionsMr Gummer and Mr Javid didn’t face any tough questions about the claims the Tories made yesterday about Labour’s tax plans; nor did they have to explain why shopkeepers should vote for them when Labour’s business rates cut pledge is better for small businesses than the Tories business rate review.

That isn’t the point of these visits though. The real reason is to ensure that candidates like Mr Gummer, in marginal seats that the Tories absolutely have to win if they want Mr Cameron to continue as Prime Minister, can show the support they have right at the top of Government.

Loyalty is powerful in political parties, and incumbents who have shown loyalty to their party during the last five years can expect lots of visits from Cabinet level power brokers within their party. So when people ask why Ben Gummer has followed his party on almost every vote, part of it is because he wants doors to open when he goes to Ministers for a favour for Ipswich.

Mr Javid isn’t the first big hitter to visit during this election campaign – Caroline Flint came to support David Ellesmere, Labour’s candidate, yesterday. I doubt either of them will be the last.

A positive campaign? Some hope.

Today sees the start of the General Election campaign “proper”. You might be forgiven for thinking it had started weeks – or even months – ago. Residents of Ipswich, a marginal seat, have been bombarded with literature by both Tories and Labour since the beginning of the year.

At a meeting of the local Labour Party, the election campaign they promised was one of positivity, hope and change. The local Conservatives also argue that they will campaign positively, arguing that Ben Gummer’s record as the town’s MP is one to be proud of.

Will we really be able to get through the next six weeks without the parties descending into negative campaigning? I don’t mean the sort of rubbish you see in the USA, but are we really going to see the two main protagonists stick to arguing their own messages and their own policies rather than denigrating the other?

Sadly I would not put money on it. As much of the message coming from either camp is about negative elements of their opponent’s message as it is positive elements of their own. David Ellesmere and Labour will want to highlight what they perceive as the failings of the Government and Ben Gummer’s complicity in those failings. Ben Gummer and the Conservatives will want to highlight what they perceive as the failings of the Borough Council and David Ellesmere’s complicity in those failings.

Rather than spending the next six weeks taking lumps out of each other over disputed statistics, who said what to whom and who broke what promise, would it not be better to spend the time explaining to the voters what each candidate would do to make things better for the residents of Ipswich?

Unfortunately a desire to prove the other side wrong is strong in any politician. I suspect that desire will overcome any positivity or hope in this campaign. The public will hate that.