Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Ben Gummer wins more money for school re-building

To add to his achievement last year in gaining Academy status and a new building for Holywells High School – now renamed Ipswich Academy – Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has scored again by ensuring Chantry High School is also re-built by ensuring it is in the Government’s Priority School Building Programme.

Mr Gummer may have his faults, especially on his agreement with the fantasy science of global warming and somewhat perverse views on Europe, but he is an excellent advocate for Ipswich in Westminster. He genuinely cares about the town and its people and this is borne out by the effort he puts in to bending the ears of ministers to ensure money flows East to our hospital, our schools and I hope in the future our dreadful railway.

Public money coming to Ipswich doesn’t happen by accident. I would bet most Whitehall mandarins and probably a fair few Government ministers wouldn’t be able to place Ipswich correctly on a map of the UK. I personally had to look Ipswich up on a map when I got an interview at BT’s R&D labs back in 2000. So I know Mr Gummer has to work very hard to get the decision-makers in the Coalition Government to take Ipswich seriously. And by taking that logic further, it shows how little effort the former Labour MP Chris Mole put into his primary job of representing Ipswich people. Mr Mole was more concerned about climbing the greasy pole and representing the Government in Ipswich (remember the scrapping of Heart Care services at the hospital) than fighting hard for his constituents.

I now expect Alasdair Ross and other Socialist apparatchiks to start telling me in the Comments below that Chris Mole worked through thousands of cases, answering countless letters etc etc. All well and good but that is the level I expect from a Councillor. I expect my MP to possess exceptional skills of persuasion and communication and then use them effectively within the Whitehall machine to work the system for the benefit of his or her constituency. Frankly, Mr Mole didn’t have those skills whereas Mr Gummer has them in spades. Even when Chris Mole was made a junior transport minister, he spent more time looking at the modern West Coast mainline than the dilapidated and awful Great Eastern line! The guy couldn’t have done less for Ipswich if he tried.

With a new school building for Chantry High School and the new Ipswich Academy combined with Education Secretary Michael Gove’s reforms, we may be able to reverse the decline in educational standards in Ipswich and Suffolk. Labour, of course, don’t want this to happen. They would prefer it if children still left school with poor literacy and numeracy skills as then it is easier for their councillors and activists to dampen their aspirations to better themselves.

People who have ambition and the skills to match tend to swing towards Conservative values of thrift and hard work as this eventually pays good dividends – and I don’t mean the Co-op variety. But Labour do not want people to have a good education – as they might end up voting Tory!

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Ben Gummer wins health money for Ipswich

Despite all the posturing from Labour they never actually did much to improve the NHS. They spent more time saying how evil the Tories were and suggesting we would ruin the NHS at the first opportunity. Undoubtedly, some privatisation would bring in some much needed efficiency and performance management in to the NHS which would allow managers to sack nurses who leave an elderly lady without water all day. But when it actually comes to enhancing the current nationalised NHS, it is left to the Tories to actually provide the improvements as has happened today in Ipswich. 

The town’s MP, Ben Gummer, has secured £10million from the Government for Ipswich Hospital with £5million be used to set up an elective specialist heart centre, known as a PCI centre. As Ipswich Spy reports, the plans will mean patients who currently have to travel to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for routine elective surgery will be treated at Heath Road. Evidence used to make this decision will have included a report published by Professor Roger Boyle in December 2010, which advised that an elective (PCI) centre be built in Ipswich while emergency patients should continue to travel to one of the three PPCI centres. This report was triggered by a campaign headed by Ben Gummer before the General Election for Ipswich Hospital to have a facility for invasive heart care treatment when it was revealed Suffolk was the only county in the region that would not have an emergency heart care centre (PPCI centres) built. At the time, Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole stood by, did his Government masters’ bidding, and said it was the best thing for the people of Ipswich. The people disagreed and he was duly disposed in May 2010.
This is a superb achievement by Mr Gummer. It shows he has the capacity to get access to the right ministers in the health department, and I am sure the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley himself, to get funding for Ipswich. Many people in Whitehall would need a map to find out where Ipswich is, hence why our railway line is so diabolical, but on this occasion they have had a constituency bugging them for money. Mr Gummer’s little chats with ministers whilst they are trapped in the lobbies has paid off.
Chris Mole never had such achievements. He waited for money to be pushed to him rather than the other way round and when it came to Ipswich Hospital he was his master’s voice, the little poodle as he tried to climb the greasy pole of Government and still never achieving higher office than a junior transport minister in nine years of being Ipswich MP.
On the other hand Mr Gummer has communication skills which allow him to talk coherently, and, more importantly, persuade those in power to look at Ipswich. For the best part of two decades, ministers would never have talked about Ipswich as the MP did not. Now, at last, Whitehall is starting to realise Ipswich isn’t just a little village in rich rural Suffolk but an urban regional centre with just as many difficulties and needs as most major towns in this country.


Ipswich MP starts ball rolling to improve rail service

As we head back into the first working week of 2012, commuters are looking down the barrel of ticket rises well in excess of inflation and a railway line in the East of England which would have shamed a former Communist republic.

At least our MP, Ben Gummer, recognises the problem and is addressing it at the highest levels of Government from the Prime Minister down. Just before Christmas, Mr Gummer had a meeting in the Houses of Parliament with his fellow MPs whose constituencies the Great Eastern line passes through between Norwich and London, Network Rail, the hated National Express and representatives from the new railway service operator Abellio, who will shortly take over the Great Eastern franchise for two years prior to the award of a 15 year franchise. Let’s not get carried away: not much was fixed at this meeting but a least the extent of the problem was laid bare to all the key players. Network Rail also admitted they were at fault for much of the infrastructure issues (i.e. track and signalling) – however, they were forced to make this admission by the fact delegates to the meeting were DELAYED on the mainline into London by signalling problems in the Stratford area (I’ve heard that one before!).
After the “rail summit” Ben Gummer explained in his weekly Morning Evening Star column his hopes for the railway into the future:

I expect that we will see small but nonetheless important improvements in reliability and customer service in the next two years; new rolling stock in the next five to seven years; and faster journey times in the next decade to fifteen years. All of this is going to take hundreds of millions of pounds. But we will get it, because for the first time all the regions MPs are fighting for it. We know that we need those better rail links to bring jobs and prosperity to our towns and cities, jobs and wealth that will otherwise go elsewhere.

When I read this I felt both pleased and disheartened at the same time. Pleased because at last our MP has given his constituents an action plan for improving our diabolical railway service but also disheartened because if his predecessors in both Ipswich and the neighbouring constituencies had pulled their finger out at the beginning of the century, when incidentally I moved to Ipswich to start working for BT, we would now be close to getting the railway service we deserve.

Much of the blame for inaction must be laid at the door of Mr Gummer’s Labour predecessor: Chris Mole. He knew fine well that the railway service under “Anglia Railways” and then “One” was a disgrace and that it was having a detrimental effect on the Ipswich economy. He then became a rail minister under Gordon Brown. But what did he do over the nine years to improve the Great Eastern mainline service when he was our MP, latterly in the Government with responsibility for railways? Ah that’s right: a big fat nothing! Instead he wasted millions on A14 gantry signs which did not work and a pointless traffic lights scheme at Copdock. The guy should be barred from holding public office ever again.

But, to be fair, the Conservatives should also take their fair slice of blame: Tim Yeo in South Suffolk, Sir Michael Lord in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and inconveniently for Ben Gummer, a certain former Member for Suffolk Coastal, Lord Deben (John Gummer), also sat back and took no discernible action during the 2000s.

However, we cannot dwell on the past. Ben Gummer has a plan and I intend to keep the pressure on him to deliver the goods (and offer my support where I can).

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Could our local rag be any more bias?

The Morning Evening Star have surpassed themselves again with this polemic on our illustrious former Labour MP, Chris Mole.  I can’t tell from the online article who wrote it but no doubt it was a Mr. P. Geater.

Are we truly to believe Chris Mole had no weaknesses at all during his tenure as the town’s MP?  Where was he when services were being stripped from Ipswich Hospital?  Why did he waste £millions on A14 signs – that are still not in use –  during the deepest recession this country has endured since the 1930s?

The Evening Star might believe it is impartial but ordinary people no differently.