By Paul Geater
Local government correspondent, local government correspondent
Thursday, April 7, 2011
FOUR years after being wiped off the electoral map in most of rural Suffolk, Labour is hoping for a storming comeback in next month’s elections.
It is putting up more candidates in rural districts across the county – and is hoping that dissatisfaction with the coalition government in Westminster will boost its vote on May 5.
At the same time the number of Liberal Democrat candidates in some parts of the county has fallen significantly as the party struggles to persuade voters that it has a distinctive voice.
In Babergh Labour is fielding 31 candidates in 43 seats – the highest number it has ever achieved in the district.
In the last local elections four years ago Labour won no seats on Babergh, although the party’s Tony Bavington won back his old Great Cornard seat at a by-election last year.
He is now acting as Labour agent for the district in these elections and is very upbeat.
He said: “We have managed to find more candidates and there is a wide range of people who want to stand for us including someone who is still a teenager and candidates in their 20s.”
Mr Bavington said he sensed that new leader Ed Miliband was ensuring “traditional” Labour values were now to the fore in the party and these would go down well.
He said: “After our defeat in 1979 the hard left took over and then eventually we had New Labour which took us back to power in 1997.
“Now more traditional Labour values are coming to the fore which attract both the working class and the middle class voters.”
In Suffolk Coastal, where only one Labour councillor was elected in 2007, the number of candidates has increased from 28 to 44 – while the number of LibDems has slumped from 39 to 24.
In Babergh one of the LibDem candidates is the party leader on Suffolk County Council Kathy Pollard.
In her district there had been no problem in finding candidates to fight for the party.
She said: “Our numbers are up in Babergh, although I know there has been a fall in the number elsewhere, especially in Suffolk Coastal.
“We have not had difficulty in finding candidates – and we have put local people up in wards where they live. I know Labour have people from other parts of the area standing in some seats.”
But she acknowledged it could be difficult finding candidates.
“It is quite a commitment to become a councillor with meetings often during the day. That does make it difficult to find candidates sometimes,” Mrs Pollard added.