Will the sun shine on the Tories in Suffolk during election campaign?

Suffolk County Council offices, Endeavour House.

All the seats at Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House are up for grabs in this year's election. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

By Thursday evening we should know who all the candidates are in the various elections that are taking place this year - nominations close at 4pm and usually the names are published shortly afterwards.

This is a very important year for elections and the campaigns have already moved up a notch - and I'm now starting to detect some distinct tetchiness and nerves among some of the senior politicians in Suffolk.

In fact tetchiness is probably under-playing things a bit. I'd go as far as to say this is probably the most ill-tempered election campaign I can remember so far.

I don't think that applies to the Police and Crime Commissioner election. All the political parties are standing in this - but I don't really feel any of them see this as a particularly tight contest in Suffolk.

Tim Passmore has been doing the job for nine years and I get the feeling that while his opponents will be giving it their best shot, they realise he could be difficult to dislodge and their party workers are putting their efforts into more winnable contests.

But in the elections for Suffolk County Council - and for Ipswich borough and some district by-elections - there is a distinct edge to the campaign, certainly if you keep up with social media!

There are special factors this year. Election day, officially, is May 6. But actually any politician who regards that as the date to aim for really is missing the point.

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In Ipswich there have been so many postal vote applications that it is perfectly possible that half of the votes could have actually been cast well before polling day.

Many people are expected to pop their completed postal votes in the post almost as soon as they receive them - before the end of this month - so campaigning too heavily in the last week of the election could be utterly pointless as most votes will have been cast.

Parties, and individual candidates, are very nervous about how the elections will play out - they always are. But I've detected a bit of a change over the last couple of weeks, largely as a result of the national political picture.

The Conservatives seem to be approaching the elections with a bit more of a spring in their step as nationally the news starts to look better for them.

The vaccine roll-out might have slowed - but it's carrying on and we're now starting to get the arrival of the US Cavalry in the shape of the Moderna vaccine entering the fray.

The figures for cases, hospitalisations and deaths continue to head in the right direction - and that means the country's roadmap out of lockdown remains in place with a significant relaxation coming in on Monday.

At a time when cases are rising across Europe, that gives the UK government the gloss of looking like a beacon of hope. We may have looked like the sick man of Europe for much of 2020, but right now Conservative campaigners are going around telling voters how wonderfully the country is doing.

And opinion polls tend to suggest that message is getting through - with Labour lagging seriously after snapping at the government's heels for much of the last year.

Local elections should not be about national issues, but this is the first time people have had a chance to express a view on the government's performance and it is inevitable that voters will bear that in mind when voting at home or in the polling station.

With Labour campaigners nervous across the country, those nerves must be pretty frayed in Suffolk as well. 

I know Labour is not very confident about holding on to its Sudbury seat. "Mr Sudbury" Jack Owen won it four years ago because the Tory vote was split when the deselected councillor stood as an independent against the new candidate. That will not happen again.

There were also very tight results in Ipswich Gainsborough division (three votes) and Lowestoft Gunton (six votes) - as well as the Whitton and Whitehouse two-seat division where the seats were shared between the Tories and Labour.

Those results must be causing great concern among Labour campaigners.

Meanwhile the Tories are hopeful of making some gains - Chris Chambers, seen as a rising star by some Conservatives - has moved from the two-seat St Margarets and Westgate Division in Ipswich to the highly marginal Gipping Valley (Bramford and Claydon) division which was held by the experienced LibDem John Field by 30 votes four years ago.

Mr Field is not standing this time, and Mr Chambers sees this as a better bet than fighting his current seat again - that is always a battle for second place behind LibDem Inga Lockington, and it's a bit of a lottery whether Labour, LibDem, or Tory snatches the second seat.

There are likely to be some surprise results with well-known local candidates exceeding their parties' overall popularity. That is how LibDems, Greens, and Independents tend to make headway in Suffolk. 

But the next few weeks are certainly set to be very interesting!

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