Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Ipswich Local Elections 2012 Analysis

Firstly, and not wishing to blow my own trumpet (oh why not, it’s one of the trappings of writing my own blog eh?), every single one of my predictions in the Ipswich Borough Council elections and also the Suffolk County Council by-election turned out to be correct. Mr Geater over at the Morning Ipswich Star parish boasted his predictions were a clean sheet as well but he only forecasted the number of gains and losses not precise ward results.

Anyway less of the gloating, let’s get down to business.

This was a very bad night for the Tories. Their vote collapsed across the Borough. You know you are in trouble when your majority in one of your safest wards collapses to just over 200 – as in Castle Hill – when you are used to a thumping 1000 gap from your nearest rival. What were the reasons for this? It’s two fold: Labour continue to gain from the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, which has not recovered from last year, and, more importantly the Tory vote, as I predicted, has this year stayed at home. The difference between hanging on in some wards and political oblivion for the Tories rested on their Get Out the Vote campaign, which patently failed:

– The literature failed to emphasise voting Conservative, instead majoring on unknown candidates.
– There was no use of social media from the constituency party as is seen with Ipswich Labour.
– The Ipswich Conservatives website elections page was left blank throughout the campaign.
– The dead tree press media were not informed of Tory MEP and MP visits until late after the event.

A telling moment last night was the Bixley County by-election. This was the only seat where UKIP fielded a candidate and as predicted Chris Streatfield stole over 200 votes, undoubtedly, from the Tory candidate Alan Murray. Even if UKIP had not been standing Cty Cllr Murray’s majority would still have been only 600 in a normally safe Conservative seat where he should be polling close to 1000. As it is, his majority is a slim 300. This is very worrying sign for the Tories.

Overall in Ipswich, the Conservatives lost three seats on the Borough Council: St John’s, Stoke Park and Whitton. Labour gained these three Tory seats and one seat – in Alexandra ward –  from the Liberal Democrats, where Cllr Adam Leeder romped home with a majority 656 with the Lib Dem and Tory vote collapsing further. A very good result here for Labour. As the night wore on the Conservative vote just kept hemorrhaging: hundreds of voters deserted the Tories in Whitton, St John’s and Stoke Park.

Rushmere was one of the wards to watch and even the last minute upset over Ransomes Sports Club failed to prevent Cllr Alasdair Ross storming back to Grafton House with a massive majority over the Conservatives. Back in 2008 Cllr Ross had a majority of 13 – he now has increased this to 547.
It was a major strategic error for the Tories to target Rushmere – it was as plain as day that in this political climate the Conservatives would never come close to beating incumbent and one-man Labour campaigning machine Alasdair Ross. But still the ward was chosen as a target seat. Would this have anything to do with Rushmere Borough and County councillor Judy Terry now being the Ipswich Conservative Party chairman and also being up for election next year? I feel sorry for Chris Chambers – I know what it is like to lose after fighting tooth and nail (as I did against Sandy Martin in St John’s back in 2006). So I really hope his expectations weren’t raised by people who should know better as last night would have been a bitter blow for a young man and could put him off active politics for a while, which would be a great shame.

The Tories would have done better to target Holywells because if it wasn’t for Labour’s poor choice of candidate and the lack of a right-wing independent on the ballot paper, Pam Stewart would have been toast. The majority in this seat is becoming very thin. Former council leader Liz Harsant won by 93 votes last year. Cllr Stewart scraped home with 49 votes after a re-count this year. If Labour sort our their Selection Committee, this ward will be there’s for the taking in 2014.

Another close result was, as predicted, St Margaret’s. This ward also went to a re-count. On a lower turnout than last year (40% to 54%) Liberal Democrat Cllr Andrew Cann pipped Tory Stephen Ion to the post by 97 votes. This was a tricky result to predict. On polling day both the Lib Dems and the Tories had difficulty getting their vote out –  Labour’s share of the vote actually increased by 1% compared to last year – but Andrew Cann’s name recognition allowed him to just pull ahead of the Conservatives.

So back to the Conservative collapse and how this might shape the political landscape over the next few years and beyond. People who have voted Conservative for decades no longer feel at home in the modern Conservative Party and yesterday they told Tory high command exactly what they think. Conservative voters are passionate about getting the economy moving again. They pay most of the nation’s taxes and want to see they are getting value for their money. Instead, the Government is borrowing more now than when Gordon Brown was last in office. The national debt is now at £1Trillion! The Government should be doing everything it can to sort out the British economy in a targeted fashion: Why are they cutting defence spending but increasing international aid to nuclear-armed India? Why is Cameron pandering to the metropolitan chattering classes by trying to legislate for gay marriages when we are back in recession? Why look at House of Lords reform when energy prices are crippling household budgets?

UKIP’s vote across the country rose last night as the Tory vote nosedived. Finally, after months of posts from right-wing commentators like myself, Conservative MPs – other than the usual suspects – have broken cover to denounce the Tory leadership for pandering to the metropolitan liberal elite over the ordinary mainstream British voter. The normally über-loyal Gary Streeter – Conservative MP for Devon South West – went on the BBC last night and said Cameron and his Tory ministers needed to be more Conservative and less Liberal. You don’t say? The only time in the life-time of the Coalition Cameron has done well in the polls is when he wielded a pseudo-veto against a financial arrangement in Brussels to prop up the monopoly money Euro. There’s a message somewhere there.

To add salt to the wound, Baroness Warsi on the same election result programme likened UKIP to the BNP. Someone needs to whip round a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people to Central Office. It’s never a good idea to smear the voters who you need to win back.

David Cameron is not standing up for Tory voters and yesterday, as a consequence, they deserted the Conservative Party in their droves. As I’ve said before, Mr Cameron is still likely to become the only Conservative leader to lose two general elections in a row unless he wakes up, smells the coffee, and realises his own supporters have had enough. There might just be enough time for him to pull out of the death spiral…


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Predictions: Ipswich Council Elections 2012

Here are my predictions for the Local Elections in Ipswich on 3rd May. Enjoy!


Alexandra Ward

The Liberal Democrat incumbent, Nigel Cheeseman, is stepping down from the Council so the only advantage the Yellow Peril had has been removed. The Liberal Democrat collapse nationally coupled with seasoned Labour campaigner Adam Leeder (who has stood for Westminster in Suffolk Coastal) being on the ballot paper, I expect this to be a Labour GAIN.

Bixley Ward (Ipswich Borough Council seat)

A safe Conservative HOLD for returning councillor Richard Pope*. He won’t get a thousand majority like former councillor Bill Wright used to and I achieved back in 2007 but expect at least 500 votes between Richard and his nearest challenger. Conservative HOLD.

Bixley Division (Suffolk County Council seat)

Alan Murray, the Conservative Candidate will become a County Councillor by the time the count is complete (does anyone know when the Count will take place – 3rd or 4th May?) but expect UKIP candidate Chris Streatfield to do very well but not by enough for the Tories to lose here. Conservative HOLD.

Bridge Ward 

Although James Spencer is a good campaigner who regularly gets under the skin of Labour in this ward he will not pick up Bridge this year. Stay at home Tories who are displeased with David Cameron and the fact there are not enough Conservative voting intentions on the canvass sheet means this will remain a Labour HOLD.

Castle Hill Ward

There is a straight fight between the traditional main parties in this seat. There is no chance of an upset. Robin Vickery will continue to be a councillor. Conservative HOLD.

Gainsborough Ward

The antithesis to Castle Hill Ward this seat also has no other party standing other than the traditional three. No upset. Labour HOLD.

Gipping Ward

Despite Kevin Algar being an enthusiastic campaigner for the Conservatives his uber-loyalty to the Coalition will grate some disaffected Tories. But even if he was a bit more sensitive to Cameron’s weaknesses, there would be no chance of Kevin unseating Labour leader and Labour parliamentary candidate David Ellesmere. Labour HOLD.

Holywells Ward

Alongside Rushmere, this will be the most interesting result on the night (if the count takes place on the night of 3rd May that is – you can never tell if the Council’s officers will feel too tired or not?) after last year’s close run between leader of the Council – as she was then – Liz Harsant and the Labour challenger. Cllr Harsant’s majority is 93. If well-known Liz Harsant with a massive incumbency factor had trouble beating Labour in what is normally a safe Tory ward what hope has newcomer Pam Stewart got. But then you need to factor in that Independent Dale Jackson, former Ipswich Borough Council Conservative Group leader and staunch rival of Liz Harsant, stood in Holywells last year. Many of the 114 votes he gained were from the Conservatives. This factor is not in play this year and therefore Pam Stewart has a good chance of getting elected.

Labour’s candidate does not live in the ward whereas Pam Stewart does, which will be an advantage to Mrs Stewart at the ballot box. Labour’s Elango Elavalakan, according to his potted biography in the latest Labour Rose leaflet, also does not seem to have been in Ipswich long which may lead to some voters thinking he is not yet fully aware of the local issues in the ward or the wider town. Both these factors will damage Labour’s vote.

However, the number of stay-at-home Tories who dislike David Cameron’s policies will be the deciding factor in this ward if this is to remain a Conservative hold. If UKIP had been standing in this seat, it would have been curtains for the Conservatives. As it is, they are not, therefore I predict a Conservative HOLD.

Priory Heath Ward

When I was Chairman of Ipswich Conservatives, I and my fellow Officers took Priory Heath seriously as a potential Conservative gain. The new Ravenswood estate was ripe for Tory pickings but as it turned out many of the people up on the old airport site were not interested in voting in local politics which was borne out by the Ravenswood polling station box consistently having the lowest turnout in the ward. People up on the Ravenswood estate are young professionals who are too busy working to take notice of local election campaigns unlike many on the Priory Heath council estate who depend on Labour for their benefits. Labour HOLD.

Rushmere Ward

The Conservatives have a new whipper-snapper working Rushmere ward but Labour’s Alasdair Ross seems to have an endless amount of time to campaign on the ground and in the ether on his blog and on Twitter. Conservative candidate Chris Chambers has a good campaigning blog and is leading from the front on canvassing sessions (I hope he is knocking on doors not ‘running the board’!). The Tories have given Rushmere target ward status and are piling the activists they have into the seat to win the ward come what may. No doubt Councillor and new Ipswich Conservatives Chairman Judy Terry would take it very personally if they were to lose considering she is up for election next year on Suffolk County Council and her Ipswich Borough seat is up for grabs in 2014.

The Green Party are standing and Eric Nelson will probably take a few votes from Alasdair Ross. The Yellow Peril have no chance.

Alasdair Ross is an excellent campaigner and he has never let up since he won Rushmere four years ago – as New Labour did nationally, the Socialist Ross has worked Rushmere since 2008 as if he was fighting an incumbent. Once you factor in the disaffected Tory vote, Chris Chambers will still be Mr Chambers on 4th May. Labour HOLD.

Sprites Ward

The Conservatives aren’t discounting this seat like they unsurprisingly have done with seats like Gainsborough and Priory Heath as they have put up Duncan Titchmarsh who has fought elections in Ipswich before but now that excellent Tory campaigner Bob Hall has switched to Stoke Park as his preferred route back to Grafton House, Richard Kirby will sail through to the winning post in Sprites. Labour HOLD.

St John’s Ward

My wife is stepping down from Ipswich Borough Council and therefore regular candidate (but not yet a councillor) Eddy Phillips is standing for the Tories in this ward. Looking around St John’s at the private dwellings and pleasant streets, including Goring Road and Lattice Avenue, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is prime Conservative territory.

Unfortunately, many of the private dwellings are occupied by middle-class public sector workers which is not the same as middle-class private sector workers. These people are too intelligent to bite the hand that feeds them and coupled with doughty Labour campaigner Cllr Sandy Martin being a full-time councillor and therefore not having the inconvenience of a boss to please this is still a Labour ward despite Tanya Maclure’s surprise win back in 2008.

Cllr Martin is not standing this year (he is up for election in 2014) but his reputation will put wind into the sails of Labour’s candidate Jennifer Stimson.  Labour GAIN.

St Margaret’s Ward

The result here could be interesting. The Greens and an Independent are standing along with the traditional main parties. Liberal Democrat votes are likely to fall into both the Green and Labour columns with Independent Peter Turtill picking up votes from across the spectrum but mainly from disaffected Tories as a protest vote. The by-election result late last year shows the Liberal Democrat vote to be strangely holding up here but if it does collapse to the Greens and Labour this could allow Conservative candidate Stephen Ion to come through the middle.

But then there is the Cann factor. Liberal Democrat Andrew Cann may well attract Labour votes from those who liked former Ipswich Labour MP and Andrew’s father, Jamie Cann, which could cancel out the defection of the Yellow Peril to the Greens. This is very difficult to call but I think it will be a Liberal Democrat HOLD – just.

Stoke Park Ward

Conservative Paul West is not seeking re-election to Ipswich Borough Council.  If he had been, it is possible he would have hung on here, despite the disaffected Tories staying at home, due to his strong personal following in the ward. As Mr West is not standing again, this ward is very vulnerable for the Tories.

The Conservatives have selected well by putting former Sprites councillor Bob Hall on the ballot paper. If anyone can pound the pavements and work the doors Mr Hall can. The Tories will be trying hard to hold this seat in Stoke Park after Richard Pope (and now new Bixley candidate) was defeated last year.

But word from the doorstep in the Tories’ best part of Stoke Park – the Royals estate – is that the Conservative vote is disappointed and they are saying the Conservative Party nationally has let them down by not implementing Tory policies on the economy and Europe once they gained power. The excuse being peddled by Prime Minister Cameron that the Liberal Democrats won’t let him is no longer believed.

If the Tories can’t get out their core vote they are stuffed. Therefore, I predict a Labour GAIN.

Westgate Ward

Labour councillor Carole Jones is up for election this year. In looking at the figures from 2011, when Labour won by over 500 votes, and with the Liberal Democrat vote expected to slip even further into the Green column or even into the Labour camp this year, Carole Jones will romp home. Labour HOLD.

Whitehouse Ward

As in 2011, this is a straight fight between the traditional three parties. Sitting councillor Albert Grant really has nothing to worry about. Easy Labour HOLD.

Whitton Ward

Former Conservative councillor Steve Wells managed to win big in Whitton in 2006 but ever since then the Tory vote has been chipped away. Labour gained the seat from sitting councillor Michelle Bevan last year with a comfortable 168 majority. Conservative councillor Don Ward is stepping down and with the Tory vote expected to continue falling because of their troubles nationally, this seat is a goner for the Conservatives.  Labour GAIN.

* I declare an interest as Richard was one of my ushers at my wedding last year


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Ipswich Local Elections Update: Review of Labour’s Local Voice

A bit later than I hoped (unfortunately the job which pays the mortgage has to come first) I’ve taken a look at Labour’s election address which was pushed through my door earlier this week.

Unlike the Conservatives’ leaflet, the first word which jumps out of you is Labour. The headline is “Labour’s plan for jobs and growth” and immediately to the left in the side bar are the words “Vote Labour“.

It is clearly a generic leaflet, in a clever newspaper format, which looks designed to be distributed across the town so no one particular candidate is promoted. But as I said in my review of the Conservative election address the vast majority of people go to the polling station to vote for a political party and at local elections on the whole the electorate will a) not have met the candidate (I have not been canvassed at all during this campaign and never have been since I moved to my current home in 2006!) and b) frankly, they won’t care who the local candidate is. It’s the rose, the tree or the bird they are looking for and that’s it. Of course, there some people who are looking for the candidate’s name but they are in the minority by some margin.  Sorry to disappoint the egos of the candidates!

Labour’s Local Voice looks to the future with a number of policy announcements. I criticised the Conservatives for concentrating on the past but it is far easier for the incumbent, which Labour are at Ipswich Borough Council, to announce what they will do when they are already in power.

The Labour literature also ticks the boxes for a big picture and few words. The headline story is textbook with a large picture of a three rather suspicious looking characters with hard hats (Cllrs Mowles, Ellesmere, and Quinton) and two large headlines. The text in the article is mainly made up of easy to read bullet points and, importantly, lots of white space. More space is allocated to pictures than words in the sidebar. People will only scan political leaflets and this is borne in mind by whoever designed the front-page of Labour’s election address.

The inside pages also follow the same theme of lots of big pictures and white space. The coloured stand-out boxes are a good technique.  Page 3 has another picture of Cllr Ellesemere (any one would think he was Labour’s challenger to Ben Gummer at the next General Election). This page is not very well laid-out with far too much text about Labour’s achievements and the green stand-out box with italicised text does not encourage us to read it.

Labour do their usual trick of painting the Tories as evil, which they do with a classic ticks and crosses stand-out box:

Labour peddle the lie that they brought John Lewis at Home and Waitrose to Ipswich when they did nothing of the sort. These were cross-party planning decisions and if anyone helped bring Waitrose to the town it was the former Conservative-led administration and the work their transport chief, Cllr Tanya Maclure, did to improve the Giles Circus landscape which is situated right outside the new Little Waitrose store in the town centre – and is an improvement Labour were vehemently against whilst the Giles Circus new pedestrian and road scheme was being constructed.  Labour were also against £9million being invested by Tesco on the western end of the Waterfront with all Labour councillors voting AGAINST the jobs and investment when the decision was made at the Planning Committee.
Labour’s claim they introduced free tickets for serving members of the armed forces to see shows at the Regent and Corn Exchange is laughable considering it was a motion laid down at a Council meeting by Tory group leader Cllr John Carnall that brought in this policy.

Going back to style and format of Labour’s Local Voice, the back-page in contrast to the front-page is a disappointment. There is no clear message due to there being too much text. There is a picture of Adam Leeder, Labour’s candidate in Alexandra Ward, which is strange as the newspaper was delivered in Holywells Ward where Labour’s candidate is Elango Elavalakan. The articles on the back page look like a standard set from Labour HQ in Victoria Street, London which have been added to the locally produced pages – this means the formatting is inconsistent to the other pages but let’s face it most people will probably only read the front-page then bin it.

The ‘We want to hear from you’ section is very good and makes use of the thousands of copies which will be distributed to homes to drum up new activists and members and money for the Labour Party. The Conservative leaflet completely missed this trick, which as a former Tory constituency chairman, is quite grating.
There is also a banner at the top of page three letting readers know who to call or email to organise a postal vote – something which the Conservative election address also lacked.

Despite Labour’s economies with the truth, the leaflet pretty much does the job as the front-page is a classic example of a Get Out The Vote (GOTV) leaflet, having the words ‘Labour’ and ‘Vote’ and an action picture.

The front-page and back-page of the leaflet have been uploaded to ElectionLeaflets.org here.


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Ipswich Borough Council Local Elections 2012

The party election addresses have started to drop on my doormat in Holywells Ward. These are meant to be manifestos but the Conservative little leaflet doesn’t really tell us what they would do if they got back into power but rather lists (in a somewhat wordy fashion) what they achieved whilst in office at Ipswich Borough Council. Tax and culture achievements are emphasised, which suggests former Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr John Carnall and former Culture & Leisure chief Cllr Judy Terry wrote the literature.

Pam Stewart, the Holywells candidate, is the headline act on the front of the election address. The Tories have gone again for promoting the candidate above the party. I have never agreed with this tactic as the vast majority of people look for the Conservatives logo and not the candidate’s name on the ballot paper. So if you want people to vote Conservative, it’s best to emphasise Conservatives over the name of someone only a handful of people voting have ever heard of. Mrs Stewart is a new candidate and will only pick up an absolute maximum 50 ‘personal’ votes. Last year Ipswich council Tory Leader Cllr Liz Harsant probably had around 150-200 ‘personal’ votes but she had been leader of the Council for seven years! Needless to say the majority of people voting in Holywells ward last year would never have heard of Liz Harsant but had certainly heard of the Conservative Party.

The leaflet design is professionally produced, which is unsurprising as it is created by a graphic designer, former councillor Stephen Ion, who produces Conservative Party literature at their Headquarters in London. Mr Ion will have offered his services for free and shows how lucky Ipswich Conservatives are to have him on-board.

Cllr Liz Harsant gets a plug in for her blog on the back of the leaflet – could Pam Stewart not have started a blog?

The election address could have majored more on the work Conservative councillors did whilst in office to improve the landscape in the town centre, especially the excellent new Giles Circus scheme, and successfully encouraging Tesco to invest £9 million into the west end of the Waterfront by Grafton Way and Commercial Road, which will be visible over the next couple of years. There is a significant number of Culture & Leisure achievements, whilst important, spread the Tory success story a bit thin.
I also think the leaflet is too small and a larger item through the letterbox would attract more attention – at the end of the day this is about sales and marketing.

All in all it is a professionally produced leaflet which certainly catches the eye but does the busy electorate have time to plough through the text or would bigger pictures in an A4 or A3 format with more emphasis on the Conservative brand pack more of a punch.

I’ve uploaded the leaflet to ElectionLeaflets.org here.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the Labour election address: The Local Voice.


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Local Elections phoney war starts

Ipswich Conservatives have already started their campaign for the elections to Ipswich Borough Council on 3rd May 2012. On Saturday, I received a leaflet through my door with a collection of stories from around Holywells Ward but the main purpose of the literature was to promote the new Conservative candidate, Pam Stewart, who features prominently on the front page.

Pam Stewart is the wife of Cllr Chris Stewart, who represents Whitton Ward on the Borough Council. I am reliably informed Mrs Stewart is intending to ask a question as a member of the public at a full meeting of Ipswich Borough Council tomorrow, which should be a good indication of the strength she will bring to the Conservative Group if elected.
As a service to my fellow bloggers and all those who are interested I have uploaded both sides of the leaflet to ElectionLeaflets.org at http://www.electionleaflets.org/leaflets/7038/
I intend to upload all leaflets which land on my doormat between now and polling day to encourage political discussion on the Borough Elections from the various political blogs we are lucky to have in Ipswich. I am sure, collectively, our reports and comment will be far ahead of what will be on offer in the Morning Ipswich Star.