Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

Lib Dems gain St Margaret’s Ward

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Counting to elect a new councillor on Ipswich Borough Council in the ward of St Margaret’s (a more affluent ward in the town) took place overnight.

The winner were the Liberal Democrats whose candidate, Cathy French, won with a majority of 71 over the Conservative candidate, Stephen Ion.

Firstly, a hat-tip to Ipswich Spy who have provided a comprehensive post on the by-election result first thing this morning and are miles ahead of the Morning Evening Star in their election AND results coverage. As Ipswich Spy pointed out a few days ago in their comments section, if you want an intellectual read on Ipswich politics stick to the blogosphere and not the dead tree local press who are now woefully lacking in quality journalism. Most of the political blogs in Ipswich are far superior than the rubbish printed in the political reports of the Morning Evening Star.

The full results were (hat-tip to Ipswich Spy):

Cathy French         LD     942 (41.8% (+6.7%))
Stephen Ion           Con     871 (38.7% (+1.7%))
Glen Chisholm        Lab   439 (19.5% (-1.8%))
Spoiled Papers                 9
Majority                 LD     71 (0.03%)
Total voted                       2261 (6276 voters (36.03%))

As you can see from the above the turn-out was high for a by-election but not unusual in St Margaret’s where turn out is always above average. The Liberal Democrat vote is up compared to the local elections in May this year but I prefer the comparison to 2008 before the national Liberal Democrat collapse. Cathy French now has a larger majority than her party had in 2008 – 71 compared to 45. This should be disturbing for Labour as it looks from this result that the Lib Dems are on the ascendency again in Ipswich after their political collapse earlier this year. However, by-elections, especially local by-elections, do have a tendency of obscuring the national trend. The real test will be the local elections in May next year.

Labour, despite the spinning of Labour MEP Richard Howitt, have nothing to be smug about in St Margaret’s: their vote is down compared to the May local elections this year and one opposition councillor has been replaced with another opposition councillor on the Borough Council.

I had predicted Stephen Ion would win for the Tories but I was proven wrong by underestimating the Liberal Democrats’ motivation for a fightback after their disastrous polling in May’s local elections this year.
Mr Ion is to be congratulated for his hard work in the by-election and he would have made a good councillor, drawing on his experience from when he represented Rushmere ward. However, I had my doubts during the campaign on how effective election literature which linked Mr Ion with David Cameron would be in a ward which has a lot of traditional Tories (the same Tories who the Conservatives call on every General Election). It should be remembered, as I’ve written before, that David Cameron didn’t win the General Election in 2010 mainly due to the Conservative leader’s message being at odds with the views of the party’s base. Reminding Conservative voters of this during the St Margaret’s by-election was, in my view, not a good move.

In summary, nothing, as yet, has changed on the political landscape in Ipswich. The real test of opinion is May 2012 when 16 council places are up for election across the Borough.

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Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

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