John Gummer will fight next election

JOHN Gummer, who has been a Suffolk MP for 30 years, has announced that he will fight the next General Election.

Graham Dines

JOHN Gummer, who has been a Suffolk MP for 30 years, has announced that he will fight the next General Election.

Mr Gummer, 70 in November this year, has represented Suffolk Coastal since 1983. For the previous four years, he had been MP for Eye, a seat which under boundary changes was split between Coastal and another newly created constituency, Suffolk Central.

Mr Gummer, whose contemporary at Cambridge University Kenneth Clarke has been brought back into front bench politics by David Cameron, says he is “fit and active,” adding: “Whatever the shape of the next Government, there will be a great need for people like me who have long parliamentary experience.”

His parliamentary career began in south-east London. He contested Greenwich in both 1964 and 1966 before being selected for Lewisham East, which he won in 1970.

However, his tenure was short-lived - in the first of two General Elections in 1974, he was defeated when Edward Heath's government was voted out during the dispute with mineworkers.

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Mr Gummer was appointed by Margaret Thatcher to be chairman of the Conservative Party in 1983. He joined the Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture in 1989 and was Environment Secretary from 1993 until Tony Blair's landslide election in 1997.

For the past 12 years, Mr Gummer has continued championing “green” issues and formed his own company Sancroft which offers advice and environmental audits to business. He has remained an active and influential advocate for Suffolk during his time as a backbencher, and in particular has been in the vanguard of politicians warning of the impact of climate change on coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

Although he would want to be best remembered for his environmental work, he will always be associated with a disastrous photo opportunity at the Suffolk Show, when he fed his daughter Cordelia a beef burger at the height of the BSE scare to demonstrate it was safe to eat.

Mr Gummer lives near Debenham, which under another boundary change in 1997 is no longer in his constituency, which now stretches from Felixstowe to Southwold and includes Martlesham, Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Aldeburgh and Halesworth.

If the General Election is not held until the last possible date of June 3, 2010, Mr Gummer will be 75 at the end of the next parliament should it go its full five-year term.

n Sir Michael Lord, a deputy speaker of the House of Commons and Tory MP for Suffolk Central and Ipswich North, who is 70, has previously said he will stand at the next election. He has been a Suffolk MP since 1983, having fought Manchester Gorton in 1979.