Labour's Stowmarket slide

IN the great by-election test that was Stowmarket South last week, Labour slid from a close second place to an amazingly poor four spot as the voters returned a Conservative county councillor with a majority of just 65.

IN the great by-election test that was Stowmarket South last week, Labour slid from a close second place to an amazingly poor four spot as the voters returned a Conservative county councillor with a majority of just 65.

Last week, I questioned whether the Liberal Democrats had the stamina for the fight given that their poll ratings have slumped amid the turmoil of various confessions and resignations at the top of the party.

The answer was: yes they did. They poured in activists and every time the Green Party put up a poster, within minutes a Liberal Democrat one went up around the corner. The Greens have cried “foul” over the Lib Dems' tactics of appealing to Green voters to switch parties - “together we can make sure we beat the Conservatives” says an impudent leaflet sent out on the eve of polling day.

It was always going to be a tough call for the Tories in a seat they really should not have won last May. But win on both occasions they did, although they can count themselves very lucky that only 29% of the voters went to the polls last week, and that Green voters stuck to their principles in a district where they are a growing influence.


You may also want to watch:


The Conservatives will point to a victory, but the swing from them to the Lib Dems was 4.3%, which if replicated in next year's all-out Mid Suffolk district council elections, could see them lose control of the authority.

Labour took a pasting, probably because the crisis in the health service is perceived by many voters as the Government's fault for starving the county of health funding and giving it all to their mates in the north and the midlands.

Most Read

It's on bread and butter issues such the closure of the nearby Hartismere Hospital in Eye that shape the outcome of politics - ministers have learned nothing from the lesson of the Wyre Forest parliamentary constituency, won by the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern candidate Dr Richard Taylor in both 2001 and 2005, standing on a platform opposed to the closure of the hospital.

Quality of life issues are influencing voters' choice, not arrogance over record investment in health and education elsewhere in the country.

THE Government of Wales Bill and its numerous amendments are so complex that the Tories quite reasonably asked Geoff Hoon, Leader of the Commons, to allow an extra day to debate it. The request did not even merit the courtesy of a reply.

The same happened to Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke. On December 21, he wrote to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt expressing the authority's concerns at the closure of community hospitals and on January 9 to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott on behalf of all six county leaders in the East of England about the council tax settlement. To date he's had no reply from either.

When asked for a comment by the EADT, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said Suffolk had done well and the south east as a region had received a grant above inflation.

What a pity the OPDM doesn't know in which of its artificial regions it has placed Suffolk!

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter