The search for a new Labour candidate for Ipswich is set to start after this year's local council elections in May - and the party is hopeful of having a candidate in place by the end of the summer.

The party nationally has started the process of selecting candidates for the next General Election by asking existing MPs to indicate if they plan to stand again and then asking their parties if they should be automatically re-selected.

This process is expected to be largely complete by May, and then the process of selecting candidates for "target seats" is set to start.

Target seats are those like Ipswich where Labour has won in the recent past, or which are considered marginal enough for the party to have a realistic prospect of victory.

Ipswich Conservative Tom Hunt has a 5,500 majority - the largest ever held by his party in Ipswich - but that is similar to Chris Mole's Labour majority in 2005 which was overturned by Ben Gummer five years later so the seat is still seen as a key target.

It is possible that there could be an all-female shortlist, but as 51% of current Labour MPs are women the need for these is seen to have declined significantly over recent years.

Ipswich Council's Labour leader David Ellesmere said: "We hope the process will be well underway by the summer - but in truth we don't expect an early election now. I can't see the government wanting to go to the country with everything that is going on."

There had been speculation that there could be an election in May 2023 - but now it seems more likely to be a year later.

The next election does not have to take place until December 2024, but it is thought unlikely that the government will wait that long.

This year the only places there are elections in this area are Ipswich and Colchester where a third of the councils are up for election.

There are plans to fight any general election after the summer of 2023 on new boundaries - but the proposals from the Boundary Commission for England last year would leave the Ipswich seat unchanged although there could be major alterations elsewhere in Suffolk.