Has Barningham got the plague?

BARNINGHAM may not be the most active political hotbed in the world, but with a General Election on the horizon, political parties ought to be contesting every council by-election if only to test their preparedness for the big day.

BARNINGHAM may not be the most active political hotbed in the world, but with a General Election on the horizon, political parties ought to be contesting every council by-election if only to test their preparedness for the big day.

Which makes it all the more curious that neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats bothered to field candidates for the St Edmundsbury borough council vacancy in Barningham, resulting in the unopposed election of Conservative candidate David Ray.

Barningham lies at the extreme edge of the West Suffolk parliamentary constituency held by Richard Spring and even in last year's elections for St Edmundsbury, the Tory was given an unopposed passage. As it's unlikely that the 1,771 electors in the ward - which also includes Hepworth, Hopton, Knettishall, Market Weston and Thelnetham - are all card carrying Tories, surely at least one other party should have given them the opportunity to vote.

TWO East of England Euro MPs have landed themselves prominent roles in the European Parliament. Robert Sturdy has been appointed international trade spokesman for the Conservatives and will head his political group at the World Trade Organisation negotiations and international trade talks while Labour's Richard Howitt becomes Vice-President of the Human Rights Committee as well as the socialist group's spokesman on foreign affairs and human rights.


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Promising to continue his campaign on behalf of East Anglia's farmers on proposed changes to the sugar regime, Mr Sturdy said: "My new trade position goes hand in hand with the work I have been doing to get farmers a fair deal."

He welcomed the WTO agreement to boost trade by cutting farm subsidies and import tariffs worldwide, adding: "International trade issues affect our every day lives, as well as having a direct on farmers in our region."

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This doesn't cut much ice with Mr Howitt, who claimed the Tories did "their utmost to prevent the EU developing a strong voice in global affairs."

CONSERVATIVE MPs have topped the regional league table for the speed in responding to constituents' inquiries through the website faxyourmp.com. David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) and Gillian Shephard (Norfolk South-West) received a 100% rating, closely followed by fellow Tories Simon Burns (Chelmsford West) and Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend East) on 97%. Top placed Labour MP on the list was Ipswich's Chris Mole in joint 12th position, while Colchester Liberal Democrat Bob Russell managed joint 26th. Bottom was Suffolk Coastal John Gummer, who scored just 13%.

IS there any point in having councillors? Ipswich council a few years ago put in five pavement ramps for the three minor roads in my neighbourhood to make it easier for mums with prams and wheelchair users. That's right, five. Off went the workmen with one side of Meadowvale Close left with its curb in tact. During these past years, assorted Labour and Tory county and district councillors have come and gone and done nothing about this nonsense - unless the reasons is that it's a deliberate obstacle course on the way to Sidegate primary school.

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