Ben drops virtuous independence

IN the June 2001 election for Suffolk county council in Woodbridge, 215 people voted for a 21 year-old Independent candidate called Ben Redsell.He stood on a platform that said being an independent on a local authority was a virtue and called for improved trade links with the European Union, priority for the young and homeless in the town, reform of secondary school catchment area criteria, and relief of town centre traffic problems.

IN the June 2001 election for Suffolk county council in Woodbridge, 215 people voted for a 21 year-old Independent candidate called Ben Redsell.

He stood on a platform that said being an independent on a local authority was a virtue and called for improved trade links with the European Union, priority for the young and homeless in the town, reform of secondary school catchment area criteria, and relief of town centre traffic problems.

Unfortunately for Mr Redsell, 3,975 voters opted to back the candidates for the main parties, but his decision to stand against the official Tory Nigel Barratt could have spelled disaster for the Conservatives in their bid to capture the seat from the Liberal Democrats.

The Tory did win by a respectable 464 votes, but now Mr Barratt has stood down, forcing a by-election – and surprise, surprise, the Tories have chosen young Ben Redsell to be their standard bearer for next month's contest. Mr Barratt has even proposed his former challenger's nomination.


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Mr Redsell's conversion to the Tory cause from virtuous independence has seen him also appointed the party's agent for Ipswich, where he is busily trying to engineer the defeat of Labour MP Chris Mole at the next General Election.

"I was brought up a Tory, but like all young people spent some time seriously considering politics," says Mr Redsell. "The outcome was my firm rejection of socialism and the Lib Dems and the belief that only the Tories can give this country and this county stability and prosperity."

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The by-election will see the first venture into local politics in Suffolk of the Ongar-based English Democrats Party, whose avowed aim is to fight the Government's regional devolution policies and give England equal rights with Scotland and Wales. The party, which will be contesting seats in the June European Parliamentary elections, has chosen Jervis Kay QC to fight Woodbridge. One of the country's leading legal experts in admiralty/shipping law, Mr Kay – whose late father was Suffolk's leading freemason – lives at Pettistree. In his Who's Who entry, he lists membership of the MCC, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, the Royal London Yacht Club, and the Turf Club.

Other candidates fighting the by-election are Diana Ball (Liberal Democrat), Roy Burgon (Labour) and John Forbes (Green). Expect the major issues of the campaign to be the continuing anger over last year's 18.5% council tax rise by the Labour-Liberal Democrat controlled county council and the authority's controversial proposal to move the town's primary school so the town centre land can be sold for housing.

CONCERNS over Charles Kennedy's health have led sections of the media to question whether he will lead the Liberal Democrats at the next election. Journalists are being fed all sorts of rumours by Conservative and Labour MPs, and if the Sunday papers are to be believed, by senior Lib Dem figures as well.

Mr Kennedy's health overshadowed the Lib Dems' spring conference at Southport last weekend. However, as he is the most electorally appealing of all the party's MPs, I fully expect him to be in charge at the next election – unless, of course, he suffers from more "violent stomach bugs" in the coming weeks.

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