Do politicians’ visits make any difference to the way we vote? asks Paul Geater

PUBLISHED: 17:47 09 June 2016

Boris Johnson is confronted by Remain supporters at the Waterfront in Ipswich.

Boris Johnson is confronted by Remain supporters at the Waterfront in Ipswich.


This week has really seen the referendum campaign come to life in Ipswich with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove coming on Tuesday and yesterday’s visit by Hilary Benn, writes political reporter Paul Geater.

Park and Ride needs to be attractive to drivers to work

Next week Suffolk County Council’s cabinet is to decide the future of Ipswich’s Park and Ride service – and it is pretty clear that the parks at Copdock and Martlesham will remain open.

There will be a significant change in the way it is run, however, with the cross-town service linking the two sites with central Ipswich and the town’s hospital being scrapped.

The new services will be integrated with Ipswich Buses’ Route 13 to the Copdock Mill Tesco and First’s Superoute 66 to Kesgrave and Martlesham.

The bus journeys could be longer, but there could be more buses running so drivers will not have to wait as long for a journey into town.

I hope these changes are successful. If Ipswich is to be taken seriously as a regional centre – and if the town centre is to avoid serious gridlock – it needs to have a good park and ride service.

It’s something to attract visitors unfamiliar with the place and also offers an alternative to those who can’t face stop-start traffic jams.

But it does need to be attractive and reliable. Reports that park and ride buses from Martlesham can take 45 minutes to reach the town centre will do nothing for the service.

More buses is one thing – making sure they have priority on the road is the next challenge for the county council.

But I do wonder whether there was any great point, especially to Tuesday’s visit – which I understand didn’t go down too well with the national Vote Leave organisers!

I can see the reason why Labour sent Mr Benn to town yesterday – the party has found it difficult to get its voice heard among the blue-on-blue attacks within the Tory Party and I can see they want to ensure their voters get out on June 23.

However the visit by Mr Johnson and Mr Gove was a bit chaotic to say the least and it had many of us asking what was the point?

The obvious explanation was that it gave them the chance to talk about problems throwing foreign criminals out of the country after Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore declared himself in favour of leaving the EU.

However, coming to an office next to UCS – where many students and staff are known to be in favour of remaining in the EU – should have set a few alarm bells ringing.

When UCS provost Richard Lister, who is well-known for wanting to stay in the EU, joined the Remain supporters waving placards it was inevitable that education was going to hijack the visit.

You were never going to get many “undecided” voters wandering about the Waterfront at 10am on a Tuesday morning, no matter how good the weather was, so the idea of a “walkabout” always seemed pretty pointless.

So what we were left with was a group of well-behaved Remain campaigners making a bit of noise and Vote Leave supporters rushing to the building – and lending placards for the advisers with the MPs to wave about and make it look as if there was more support for their men. All very chaotic.

My suspicion is that the genuinely undecided voters (and I’m not sure there are as many of them as the polls would suggest) just aren’t listening to politicians any more.

They might just listen to experts like money guru Martyn Lewis, Wetherspoons manager Tim Martin, or a university leader like Mr Lister.

But I suspect the politicians are now left only preaching to their own supporters.

As for Messrs Johnson and Gove, I found them amenable and happy to talk – although when it came to the questions from the Remainers on university their answers were not exactly clear.

There clearly are real fears about a future outside the EU from the academic world, and a response: “Don’t worry, it will all come out all right in the end” doesn’t address the issues that are troubling students, lecturers and administrators at universities across the country.

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