Local test of national ambitions

IF the Conservatives are to win the next General Election, they must pick up at least two of their target seats in Essex and Suffolk - Harlow, Ipswich and Waveney which are currently held by Labour, and Colchester from the Lib Dems.

IF the Conservatives are to win the next General Election, they must pick up at least two of their target seats in Essex and Suffolk - Harlow, Ipswich and Waveney which are currently held by Labour, and Colchester from the Lib Dems.

Apart from Harlow, where Labour's majority is just 97, it will be tough for the Tories. They need swings of 7% in Colchester, 6.37% in Ipswich and 5.97% in Waveney. An added complication in Colchester is a major boundary change, which will remove the ward of Stanway in the new constituency of Witham.

All four seats fall within the category of urban constituencies, whose councils hold local elections annually instead, while rural authorities and London have all-out elections every four years.

The May 4 contests will be a barometer on the standings of all three main parties. They are the first big electoral tests for David Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell since they became their party leaders, while Labour candidates hoping to talk about local issues on the doorstep will have to defend the sleaze of loans for honours which has engulfed the very top of the party.


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If Labour goes into meltdown, it will help the Tories gain outright control in Colchester, consolidate their positions in Waveney and Harlow, and strengthen the Tory-Lib Dem axis which runs Ipswich.

Nominations close next Monday for the polls, but already the parties are gearing themselves up for the fight. In Ipswich, the Tories have launched their local elections website www.ipswichconservatives.com. Constituency chairman Gavin Maclure says: “It is vital we make use of modern communications to ensure our `Positive Action for Ipswich' message reaches as many people as possible in the town.”

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Suffolk Central and Ipswich North Liberal Democrats this week kick off a series of policy and politics discussions with law and order under the spotlight. The meeting, to be held at Henley Community Centre on Thursday at 7.30pm, will discuss identity cards, the reorganisation of police forces, anti social behaviour orders, crime and disorder partnerships, community beat officers and a minimum policing guarantee.

There's a lot at stake on May 4. So if you live in a council area where elections are taking place, expect to be disturbed by eager beaver party activists as you try to watch your favourite soap.

Incidentally, I can see no logical reason why we have to endure council polls every year. Forcing all councils to switch to holding polls every four years would give stability to council affairs and, more importantly, save local council taxpayers a fortune.

SUFFOLK South Tories have restarted a business forum aimed at providing businessmen and women with the opportunity to learn more about the way Westminster works and to channel the concerns of local companies, and the people who work in them, to the relevant government department.

Constituency chairman Brian Tora says: “With the way in which political parties are funded being very much in the news, there has to be a transparent contribution from local business people sympathetic to the Conservative approach of reduced bureaucracy and the removal of unnecessary regulation.”

Suffolk South will be working closely with Ipswich Tories. “Many owners and managers of Ipswich businesses live in our constituency, and winning Ipswich at the General Election is crucial to the Conservative Party,” says Mr Tora.

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