City of dreams for Labour hopefuls

LABOUR hopefuls from across the region gathered in Peterborough a few of weeks back to meet party members who will be choosing a candidate in this highly marginal seat.

LABOUR hopefuls from across the region gathered in Peterborough a few of weeks back to meet party members who will be choosing a candidate in this highly marginal seat. Peterborough is unusual in that the local party has decided to put its MP Helen Clark through a full re-selection process, and going to the city, eager to help plunge in the knife, were around 40 men and women who'd like to take over from her.

Colchester Labour group leader Tim Young was spied in the melee, enjoying a convivial glass of Diet Coke as he tried to convince the great and the good of Peterborough's Labour elite that he should be their standard bearer.

Although Peterborough is likely to be the only East of England winnable seat for Labour that will be seeking a General Election candidate this time I ought to offer some caution to all the wannabe MPs. Helen Clark could still get the nod as candidate if local activists think she is the best of the bunch.

And secondly, it must be a good bet that the seat will be fall to the born again Tories, the swing needed to overtake Mrs Clark's 2,854-vote majority being a mere 3.9%. Indeed if the Conservatives don't win here, they have no hope of preventing a third Labour landslide.


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Peterborough Labour Party will meet on December 12 to choose the people they wish to interview formally. Elsewhere, Labour members in Bury St Edmunds (Tory majority 2,503) will hold their shortlisting meeting on January 30 and choose a candidate on February 19 while Suffolk Coastal (Tory majority 4,326) will be shortlisting on January 3 and selecting on January 31.

n Two council by-elections in the past few weeks are worthy of note. The Liberal Democrats took advantage of the then leadership chaos in the Conservative Party to hold on to Happisburgh, part of the highly marginal Lib Dem held North Norfolk constituency (swing from Tories around 9%). Seven days later, the Conservatives won their first seat in Haverhill for around 20 years when candidate Tim Marks had a 72 vote majority over Labour in the Haverhill North ward of the town council.

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Overall in November, the Press Association has projected the local council by-election results into a Tory national lead over Labour of 2% – exactly the same as last week's opinion poll conducted by YouGov.

n Congratulations to Peter Burgoyne, the Conservative Party's agent in Tim Yeo's South Suffolk constituency. Quick as a flash, as soon as Michael Howard had been confirmed as party leader, begging and recruitment letters to former and potential party members went out from his Hadleigh offices under the letter head of the new Leader of the Opposition.

One such missive was received in Holbrook – although it's not for me to reveal the reaction of the recipient! But as in other parts of the country, the evidence in South Suffolk is that lapsed Tories are rejoining along with new members, now that the party has overcome its jabbering fratricide and started to look a credible alternative to Labour. It's now estimated that the Tories have around 80,000 more paid up members than Labour.

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