Ipswich: Miliband becomes latest party leader to visit the town

Labour leader Ed Miliband

Labour leader Ed Miliband - Credit: PA

IPSWICH’S position as one of the key election battlegrounds was today being confirmed as opposition leader Ed Miliband launches his party’s election campaign from the constituency.

His visit comes two weeks to the day after the Prime Minister chose UCS to make his major speech on immigration in a move which signalled the Conservatives’ determination to boost Ben Gummer’s chances of remaining MP.

Mr Miliband is touring marginal seats in the East of England today – after starting in Ipswich he is moving on to Cambridge and Stevenage – at the start of a three-day push to boost the party in regions where it suffered badly at the last general election.

In 2010 Labour won only two seats in the East of England – both in Luton – and lost traditional strongholds like Ipswich, Norwich, Stevenage, and Thurrock to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Mr Miliband was due to meet Labour candidate David Ellesmere and party activists before launching the election campaign.

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This is mainly aimed at next month’s county council elections, but is also seen as vital to try to re-establish the Labour presence in the region in preparation for the next general election which is due to be held in 2015.

The Labour leader last visited the town in 2008 when he was Environment Secretary, and local Labour officials have been trying to arrange a visit for some time.

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Ipswich is seen as a key marginal seat – Mr Gummer won the seat with a majority of 2,000 over Chris Mole at the last general election, but no Tory MP has served the seat for more than five years since before the war.

The East of England has never been a particularly fertile region for Labour – although the party has done well on occasions in the past.

In 1997 Labour outvoted the Conservatives across Suffolk – although the electoral system saw them end up with two MPs to the Tories’ five.

It is not just the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition that have been heading in this direction – over the last two weeks LibDem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has visited Colchester while UKIP leader Nigel Farage visited Brandon on the Suffolk/Norfolk border to make his speech on immigration.

And on Saturday Green Party leader Natalie Bennett visited Stowmarket to boost her party’s candidates in the county council election.

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