Suffolk’s MPs need to learn from Tim Yeo’s deselection

Tim Yeo

Tim Yeo - Credit: Archant

Tim Yeo’s deselection came as no surprise to me having followed the issue as it unfolded over the last year – but his predicament should be an object lesson for MPs across the county.

Some members of his association didn’t like his support for gay marriage, but that was not the crucial issue.

Some South Suffolk Conservatives didn’t like his support for green energy, especially wind turbines – but that didn’t lead directly to his re-selection.

He lost the support of his association because they didn’t think he was seen enough in and around the constituency – and more crucially his neighbouring MPs (many of them new in 2010) were seen to be putting themselves about among their voters.

Dan Poulter and Matt Hancock may already be ministers, but they’re in their constituencies most weekends. And they make themselves available to the media so they’re seen in their constituencies.

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Ben Gummer runs around Ipswich with bags of energy, and Therese Coffey has made herself difficult to ignore in Suffolk Coastal. David Ruffley has a very high profile in Bury St Edmunds, and Peter Aldous is very busy around Waveney.

Mr Yeo looked increasingly like a political dinosaur, a throwback to the old style of MPs who were elected for a safe seat in the 1950s or 60s and hardly exuded bundles of energy in their constituencies before they were elevated to the House of Lords in the 1980s or 90s.

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There aren’t as many members of political parties as there were in earlier decades, but those that there are tend to be more politically aware than they might have been before.

These days more people who take the trouble to join a political party do so because they are interested in politics, it isn’t just a social club that they join for the garden parties or whist drives.

They want to feel their voice is heard on political issues. They don’t necessarily want their MP to share their views on every issue, but they do want to feel that their view has been understood.

Many members of the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Conservative Association didn’t share Dr Poulter’s views on gay marriage. But he engaged with them and explained his position.

He was re-selected unopposed by an executive who felt that he was doing a good job representing the constituency and was at least prepared to listen to their concerns.

Dr Coffey has provoked some chuntering in Suffolk Coastal over issues like oil transfer at sea and her delight at attending high profile sporting and entertainment events – but her association accepts she works hard for the constituency and again she was re-adopted unopposed.

As their careers progress, these MPs need to bear in mind the experience of Tim Yeo and retain their local support.

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