Harwich MP snipes at Tories

HARWICH'S Labour MP Ivan Henderson professed himself perplexed. Just what was his Conservative opponent Douglas Carswell up to, attending a meeting in the constituency addressed by Martin Bell rather than listening to his own leader Michael Howard at the Tories' spring conference up in Harrogate?Conspiracy theorists could have a field day.

HARWICH'S Labour MP Ivan Henderson professed himself perplexed. Just what was his Conservative opponent Douglas Carswell up to, attending a meeting in the constituency addressed by Martin Bell rather than listening to his own leader Michael Howard at the Tories' spring conference up in Harrogate?

Conspiracy theorists could have a field day. Former war correspondent Mr Bell was in Harwich just 24 hours after shaking the political order in the East of England by announcing his candidature for the European Parliament elections. He had accepted an invitation from Harwich's Community Representatives' Party – one of whose chief stalwarts is Mr Henderson's brother Steven – to talk to them.

So is Mr Carswell about to defect? "The MP is making mischief," he said rather cheerfully. "I was not in Harrogate because I had private business to attend to. So I accepted an invitation to the Harwich meeting. Our town has a history of civic mindedness – this event was one such occasion and I think it was important to be there.

"I'm glad I went because of the number of people who came up to me and expressed their support in the coming election. And I'm also flattered that Harwich's MP is taking so much notice of what I'm doing – he must be worried his 2,503 majority will be overturned at the election next time."


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As for Martin Bell's motives in standing for Europe, Douglas Carswell cannot fathom them out. "Of course the Labour Party is deeply troubled – Mr Bell's chances of being elected depend on the number of Labour voters who defect to him because he won't get any from the Tories."

The skirmish follows a rumpus over a visit to Holland-on-Sea in the constituency by Tory health spokesman Tim Loughton, who then raised in the Commons some of the concerns of members of the public he met. An infuriated Mr Henderson said he understood that if constituents contacted an MP from another seat, the issues should be referred back to the relevant MP to deal with.

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Giving a ruling, the Speaker said a backbench MP should not interfere in another Member's constituency, but he saw "no problem" with front bench spokesmen taking up the cudgels if concerns were raised with them.

LOCAL authorities are busily mending pavements and finding work to do in parks and gardens as they try to spend council tax revenue before the end of the financial year in 15 days' time.

Perhaps Ipswich councillors should get out and about and stand on Stoke Bridge at low tide. Looking into the muddy waters of the River Gipping upstream towards the town's Princes Road bridge, they'll see within a few feet nine supermarket trolleys, two traffic cones, and numerous temporary road signs lurking on the river bed.

It doesn't really matter which council or Government agency is in charge of the river – it's Ipswich's image that is danger from rusting Sainsbury's trolleys and that should be enough to shame the council into action.

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