Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Cutting benefits and lower taxes won the election not Gummer's six pledges

Seems my last post on the election result has caused some discussion within local blogging circles and on twitter. The Ipswich Tory leader even called me ignorant and arrogant!

Just to make it clear to all, I am not calling all the electorate selfish – just that we (the Labour Party) failed to reassure voters that with us in charge there own financial stability was not under threat. But the electorate did not trust us and it was the economy that helped win it for the Tories with some help from the Tory Press with their talk of marauding Jocks pouring over Hadrian’s Wall.

We made many mistakes nationally but locally we did fight a good campaign – mistake free? No – and we will learn from that and campaign harder, longer and using new methods.

Some commentators are saying our local campaign was negative whilst the Gummer one was positive – I believe building council houses for the first time in a generation, paying the living wage and investing in apprenticeships were positive campaign points but we also had to inform residents over the danger to the NHS and the welfare state if the Tories were elected.

The Ben Gummer campaign was a positive one, and I am sure some residents were impressed by his 6 pledges but the local press could have found many holes in those pledges if they had wanted to.

Just a couple here, education – Ben Gummer boasted about getting two secondary schools re-built but both those schools have just been removed from the academy chains running them. Mr Gummer was quick to bring Mr Gove to Holywells to meet the Swedish academy chain who were running the school. The school was built in a design that was suitable for the Swedish way of teaching but now we are left with a building that is not suitable for the teaching method that will now be used.

Mr Gummer may have sounded very positive with his 6 pledges but away from his expensive papers he spent considerable time and money seeking the support of those who do want to see any building on the Northern Fringe – he did not seem keen to push the Tory County Council or ask his own Government to provide funding for a much needed Northern link road. He certainly was not acting in a positive way towards this much needed development.

The town centre –even this week commentators are calling for Labour run Ipswich to work with Tory run Suffolk and our Tory MP to improve the town centre. But we did work together over a design for the Cornhill. But after the winning design was chosen it is only Ipswich Borough Council who has offered any funds towards the build. So far the Tory County Council, Ipswich Central and Ben Gummer have failed to contribute or secure any funding.

Talking of the redesign of the town centre, not sure the local press can be treated as a neutral observer when they have so much at stake in any chosen plan. The scheme they promoted today would ensure they would be able to sell their current offices – something they have been after doing for some considerable time.

So in conclusion – we made mistakes – nationally, we did not promote aspiration – locally we campaigned hard but were deemed by some to be running a negative campaign compared to Ben Gummer but in reality Mr Gummer’s positive pledges do not stand up to closer inspection.

We know we made mistakes, we know we have to learn from them – and fast and that the road ahead is both long and difficult. But if the Tories think they won because of Gummer’s pledges they are deluding themselves.

At the count on Friday, one of the most senior Ipswich Tories told me they had won because voters wanted lower taxes and further benefit cuts. He went onto say he could not wait for the maximum amount of benefits to be paid to one family was slashed. No mention from that senior Tory of the Wet Dock Crossing or improved schools – just less taxes and a much reduced welfare bill.

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