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Politicians prepare for a big year of local elections without meeting the public

PUBLISHED: 19:00 18 October 2020

Campaigners have been unable to knock on doors as they try to attract votes. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Campaigners have been unable to knock on doors as they try to attract votes. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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Suffolk’s local politicians are gearing up for what could be the most complex local election for years next May – but still are not able to do “real politics” by getting out and meeting members of the public to ask for their vote.

Sir Keir Starmer took part in a virtual Town Hall meeting for Ipswich: Picture: ARCHANTSir Keir Starmer took part in a virtual Town Hall meeting for Ipswich: Picture: ARCHANT

County council elections are due next May in the four-year cycle when all 75 seats at Endeavour House will be up for grabs. Every voter in the county is likely to have a vote – it is very rare for a county council seat to be uncontested.

Last May’s elections for police and crime commissioners were postponed because of the pandemic and lockdown. They are due to be held next year. And in Ipswich there is due to be an election for a third of the borough council.

There are also likely to be several by-elections across the county caused by the resignation or death of councillors – by-elections that have been unable to take place during the lockdown or during the pandemic.

Parties have started the process of selecting candidates for seats – but the final lists are not expected to be confirmed until early in the new year. There has already been controversy within the Suffolk Conservative group after former leader Colin Noble was dropped from the candidates list and then reinstated.

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Labour has started inviting applications among party members for people who want to stand in elections – and will start selecting candidates for winnable or marginal seats early in the new year.

But party volunteers remain frustrated that they are no longer able to do normal campaigning – canvassing voters, knocking on doors, or talking to people in the street.

Labour agent John Cook said: “Politics is still very important but it is not the same if you cannot go out and talk to people face-to-face. We are carrying on preparing for next year’s elections – it will be very interesting to see what happens then.”

MORE: Keir Starmer held virtual meeting for Ipswich

All parties have been relying on new technology and phone campaigning to get their message across over the last few months with “virtual” party conferences and online “visits” to the area – including a virtual “Town Hall Meeting” for Ipswich residents held by Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer soon after his election as leader.


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