Neil's Suffolk challenge
>RURAL mid Suffolk has never elected a Labour MP, and it's going to take a superhuman effort combined with a severe meltdown in the Tory vote to change that at the next General Election.
By Graham Dines
RURAL mid Suffolk has never elected a Labour MP, and it's going to take a superhuman effort combined with a severe meltdown in the Tory vote to change that at the next General Election.
Even though since 1983 the parliamentary boundary draftsmen have continually lumped a quarter of Ipswich in with its rural hinterland – initially with Stowmarket, Eye and surrounding villages and now with Framlingham, Debenham, Eye, Wickham Market and Kesgrave – the seat in its different guises has doggedly stuck to the Tories.
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Now Labour activists in Suffolk Central and Ipswich North have chosen Ipswich borough councillor Neil MacDonald to try to unseat Sir Michael Lord, third deputy speaker of the House of Commons and a Suffolk MP for 21 years in Suffolk.
The seat stretches from Christchurch Park in Ipswich to the Norfolk border – geographically huge and in the northern areas, sparsely inhabited.
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"I believe the Conservatives are vulnerable because two-thirds of the constituency's population lives below a link from Claydon across to the A12," says Mr Neil. "The new housing estates at Grange Farm have grown since the last election and the big question is – how will the young couples with children who have bought properties there vote?
"Long gone are the days when those who lived in relatively expensive houses automatically voted Conservative – the Tory message does not appeal to today's generation.
"As Labour's candidate, I shall be actively explaining Labour's policies on education and health which resonate with the voters."
Labour's big problem in trying to overturn Sir Michael's 3,469 majority is getting its core vote out – the Labour areas of Ipswich's Whitton and Whitehouse estates at the 2001 General Election saw a turnout nearly 20% less than in the leafy Tory-voting districts along the A140.
Neil, 38, grew up on a council estate in Elgin, Scotland, and graduated in electronic engineering at Aberdeen University. He moved to Ipswich to work for BT at Martlesham and later joined a hi-tech start-up company.
Last year, he spent the summer as a volunteer project manager in a refugee camp in Ghana with the UK charity Raleigh International. He has represented St John's ward on Ipswich borough council for four years.