Why national issues are not featuring in this year’s local council polls

Ipswich Labour members say national issues like Jeremy Corbyn's leadership have not been a major fac

Ipswich Labour members say national issues like Jeremy Corbyn's leadership have not been a major factor in this year's election. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire - Credit: PA

During this year’s local election campaign in Ipswich, both main parties have said that they are fighting very much on local issues – and that is what the public want to talk to them about.

In parts of Ipswich the Upper Orwell Crossings have been a keen issue in this election. Picture: NEI

In parts of Ipswich the Upper Orwell Crossings have been a keen issue in this election. Picture: NEIL PERRY

Ipswich Labour says people like the idea that they are building council houses – and express concerns about the state of the roads which are the responsibility of the Conservative-run county council.

The Tories say people are worried about the Upper Orwell Crossings and the northern fringe development where work is about to start.

Both parties say that national issues haven’t really intruded so much – except where voters have wanted to criticise their opponents.

Frankly I’m not surprised that the local parties don’t want to talk about what their national leaders are doing because both the Conservatives and Labour are in real trouble at a national level.

The Conservatives have got themselves into a terrible mess over the Windrush affair. Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to resign after she broke the first rule of being a minister – not lying, not trying to mislead anyone, but failing to read her briefing notes from civil servants.

What has also been shown up is that the shrill, anti-immigrant atmosphere whipped up by some elements of the national press affected Home Office policy under Labour, Coalition and Conservative administrations – leading to a situation where officials were hounding alleged “illegal immigrants” first and only listening to what they had to say after they’d ruined their lives.

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There are many villains in this sorry story – but I can’t help feeling that the longest-serving Home Secretary for decades under whose watch lorries were sent out telling illegal immigrants to “go home” resulting in the grand total of 111 deportations needs to take some responsibility.

The Tories also look pretty clueless on Brexit with the moment, with 60 extreme anti-Europeans putting pressure on the government to avoid any kind of customs deal, no matter what damage that might do to the British economy or however many tens of thousands of jobs it would cost in this country!

But while the Tories are looking inept in government, Labour really isn’t doing anything to convince floating voters that it is a competent government-in-waiting.

The party leadership’s reaction to the anti-Semitism concerns that have arisen recently has been lamentable with Jeremy Corbyn and other senior members apparently being unable to accept the seriousness of the situation.

It is clear that Mr Corbyn himself isn’t anti-Semitic but his inability to understand the concerns of so many of the party’s Jewish members – and the anger of mainstream Jewish organisations – really does call into question his judgement.

As does his reaction to international issues, especially those concerning Russia. Mr Corbyn and his leadership team, including shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, have given the impression that they are keener to listen to the explanations of the Russian Embassy on issues like the Salisbury poisoning and the nerve gas attack in Syria than they are to Britain’s own security services.

That again raises big questions about their judgement in the minds of many voters – the kind of voters that any party needs to build a majority in the country as a whole.

When I see their MPs performing on television, I can see clearly why many people think the most competent Labour politicians – the Yvette Coopers, Hilary Benns, and Chukka Umunnas of this world – are sitting on the backbenches and chairing Commons committees rather than driving party policy.

The Liberal Democrats are creeping back into the picture – but they have been left at such a low ebb after the last two general elections that they have a mountain to climb.

In Ipswich the party’s efforts always tend to be concentrated on one ward – and even at their high-water mark the Liberal Democrats never came close to winning a parliamentary seat anywhere in Suffolk.

They could become an electoral force again – but at the present rate of progress it could take decades before they are back where they were in 2010.

But in today’s local poll, local issues are everything. They may have featured in the national party political broadcasts, but candidates on the ground are not trying to persuade voters that Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn is an election issue!

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