Uniting against unitary options

THE Conservative Party's intervention in the unitary councils debate, which is virtually paralysing local government in Suffolk, looks to have been sparked by the strange alliances which are being forged behind the scenes.

Graham Dines

THE Conservative Party's intervention in the unitary councils debate, which is virtually paralysing local government in Suffolk, looks to have been sparked by the strange alliances which are being forged behind the scenes.

Tory Central Office has come out against scrapping the county council and its seven districts and wants to keep the status quo - and senior figures in Ipswich Labour Party, for so long the proponent of a unitary borough, may regard that as the best way out of the current morass.

Having started the rabbit out of the trap by trying to divorce Labour Ipswich from the stifling cover of Suffolk county Tories, the borough Labour Party doesn't like the two options on the table from the Boundary Committee.


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The BCE's main recommendation is for two Suffolk unitaries - Ipswich-Felixstowe and Suffolk rural - although it is consulting on a whole all-powerful Suffolk unitary.

A joint Ipswich-Felixstowe council around the River Orwell would neuter Ipswich Labour Party's influence on council decisions while a whole county unitary would emasculate it.

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Don't be surprised then to discover, working behind the scenes, Suffolk Coastal council leader Ray Herring, Suffolk Coastal Tory MP John Gummer, Ipswich's opposition Labour leader David Ellesmere, and the town's Labour MP Chris Mole working together to sabotage the BCE's plan and, if necessary, urging the Secretary of State to keep the status quo.

However, as the status quo was specifically excluded from the BCE's terms of reference, I suspect the Secretary of State will withstand the political pressure from Ipswich Labour Party and support the two unitaries plan.

BARACK Obama and John McCain offered sharply divergent views on abortion this weekend at an Orange County church in California - strange as it may seem, it is the most contentious domestic issue in American politics.

Until now, they have steered clear of the often fierce disputes between their parties on abortion. As the nominating conventions approach, both have had to come out of the closet.

Obama, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, said at the church meeting that he wanted to make the procedure less common. McCain, who opposes abortion, has ignited new tensions with the Republican Party's conservative wing by trying to mollify those who want it to remain legal.

McCain and Obama almost certainly would steer the country in different directions if elected in November. And they would do that through their first appointment to the Supreme Court, which is a short of overturning Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Pro-choice versus pro-life - the liberal cities versus small town America. And while Obama has been courting overseas nations on a world tour, McCain has been quietly eroding the Illinois senator's lead and - despite the almost universal hatred of George W. Bush - may now be in with a chance of pulling off a surprise third victory in a row for the Republicans.

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