The national media rode into town yesterday for Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech laying out the Government’s vision for controlling immigration into the UK. Things were hopefully planned with the best intentions by Number 10 and I trust Ipswich MP Ben Gummer also made sure Ipswich would get a good press.
Although things do not always go to plan and yesterday was no exception. The first impression the PM and the travelling media pack got of our part of the world was the appalling Great Eastern mainline. True to form, the train would not move further north than Essex which meant David Cameron and his entourage had to alight one stop before Ipswich at Manningtree and continue their journey by car to Ipswich’s Waterfront. I presume David Cameron’s vehicle security detail had to rush down the A12 to pick him up considering they were expecting him at Ipswich railway station? It’s not as if this hasn’t happened to him before; I recall a visit from Mr Cameron when I was the Conservative Party Ipswich constituency chairman in the noughties when the then Leader of the Opposition had to get off his train at Colchester (even further south) due to Network Rail’s incompetence.
But if that memory didn’t cross over into Government, Mr Gummer surely could have reminded the PM that the railway service in East Anglia is horrific? Then the Prime Minister could have just done the entire journey by car and stuff the green movement for a day.
Once David Cameron arrived (late) into Ipswich he was whisked into the back entrance of University Campus Suffolk and straight upstairs to deliver his keynote speech to the bored journalists and a few hand-picked Tory members (those who wouldn’t ask awkward questions, hence I wasn’t invited!). But whilst the speech was being heard, the national broadcast media had teams out in Ipswich trying to find the “immigrant community” and they slyly found the least attractive part of Suffolk’s county town: St Matthew’s Street. This area of Ipswich is known for it’s row of immigrant-run shops from Turkish Kebab houses to Polish delis and unlike in some of the “diverse” areas of London, St Matthew’s Street is also known for its run-down appearance. This was the perfect backdrop for the likes of Sky News, ITN and the BBC for their reports showing vox pops asking if immigrants are claiming benefits without ever working, how the Government intends to stop this (if the EU allows them) and the new coalition proposals to ensure recently-arrived immigrants cannot get a council house. It wasn’t exactly an advert for the Visit Ipswich tourism board!
The media cannot be told what to report (well, the Royal Charter might try and do that but its not law yet) but Number 10 and Ben Gummer could have done a better job at ensuring David Cameron did not just use University Campus Suffolk as a warm place to deliver a speech but also as a way of promoting Ipswich to a national audience during this recession-hit cold Spring. When the Prime Minister finished his speech (and had the obligatory photos with the select Conservative Party members) he practically ran to his armoured Land Rover, not even stopping for the freezing newspaper and blogosphere photographers kept outside. I am told by a reliable source that the editor of the
Morning Ipswich Star, Terry Hunt, desperately tried to get David Cameron to stop somewhere with a backdrop that said Ipswich rather than any old building somewhere in Britain but he was running late (thanks to Greater Anglia and Network Rail!) and needed to get back to London.
And so the dreary side of Ipswich was what made the national news yesterday evening, which is a real shame for a town that finds it difficult to be confident at the best of times.