Sunday 31 May 2015

My week ahead, 1 - 7 June 2015

Monday 1 June, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday 2 June, 6pm – Ipswich Borough Council Audit meeting (and training)

Thursday 4 June, 6pm – North East Ipswich Partnership meeting
7pm – North East Ipswich Area Committee

Campaigning and the election now seem ages ago as we get down to the task of running Ipswich, a task that will now be even harder as we face further cuts from this Tory Government.
But we will continue to do our best for Ipswich and one of our biggest challenges this year will be getting the Northern Fringe developments started plus continue our programme of council house building – hopefully this time our Tory MP will support us rather than placing obstacles in our way (all just to gain a few votes)

This Thursday we have our next North East Ipswich Area Committee meeting, we will continue to support projects that improve the lives of East Ipswich residents, we will be asking residents to help us set our priorities for the next few years.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Fighting harder, poor discipline and nasty comments

I have been putting off writing this post for a number of weeks, I was going to write it before the election then just after and I was still in two minds about writing it at all but the behaviour of certain Ipswich Tories this weekend has made my mind up for me.

The last few weeks have been a difficult time for the Labour Party, today we should have been announcing the end of the ‘bedroom tax’ but instead we had to listen to a Queens Speech that will see legislation put in place to allow a ‘snoopers’ charter, a vote on repealing the anti-hunting ban, attacks on our European Human Rights and a further nail in the coffin of social housing.
We have also lost our leader, an honourable man who not only had to stand up to the Tories but to do that whilst withstand vicious personal attacks from the right wing media.

But it has not all been gloom and doom, here in Ipswich we have stayed united, we look forward to the campaign to elect a new leader and deputy leader as an opportunity to help set the direction of the Labour Party over the next 10 years. We have been bolstered by the surge in new members, not only nationally but here in Ipswich. We look forward to welcoming them to our party as work and campaign hard not only for a Labour Government in 2020 but to continue with the good work that has already been carried out by the Labour run Ipswich Borough Council.

But many of us still feel angry, disappointed and sad about the result of the election this May. The campaign was also difficult for many of us as we lost a great young campaigner in Matthew Percy, and also during the campaign two of our councillors lost very close members of their family.

We would expect the local Tory activists to be cock-a -hoop about their election victory not only nationally but here in Ipswich – there is no doubt that many of them worked very hard to get Mr Gummer elected but some of them (not all) have allowed their feelings of joy to turn into a displayed of arrogance mixed with hatred that again reflects the big difference between the Ipswich Labour Party and the Tory party- we are well lead, have a sense of unity and discipline whilst local Tories seem able to behave badly knowing the local Tory leadership will come out with statements such as “I am not his mother” when excusing their unacceptable behaviour.

This lack of discipline amongst local Tories is nothing new but their behaviour at times over the last few months has sunk to a new low. One of our councillors decided to stand down early from his post as his partner was diagnosed with cancer, but within days of his announcement an Ipswich Tory candidate posted this: Ipswich Labour believe in born to rule privilege. This is why Ipswich Labour has so many political dynasties within it. The Rosses, the Cook’s and the Maguire’s. But Ipswich Labour’s belief in born to rule privilege goes beyond that. Ipswich Labour’s Favourite blogger has been informed that Richard Kirby was ordered to resign so that Colin Smart can be a councillor like his Dad.

In Ipswich Labour they adhere to outmoded Marxist doctrine about class warfare. To them it is who you are, who your family is and where you come from that matters. Not what you are and what you can do for your town. In the Conservative Party it is not who you are, who your family is or where you come from that matters, but what you are and what you can do for your country that counts.

Not only was this just a load of lies it was also very distressing for many as within days of Dick Kirby standing down his wife lost her battle against cancer. A number of us were very angry over these comments and the Tory agent was approached and reminded that as an official Tory election candidate that we would expect that he behaved in a more dignified way. The post was quickly removed, though there still seemed to be a lack of control within the local Tory Party has only a few weeks later another Ipswich Tory candidate had to remove tweets after appearing to call the public stupid.

You would have hoped that would be the end of it as it was no surprise that this one Tory candidate decided to write such a hurtful post as his blog is full of similar posts including some attacking his own Tory colleagues.

But on the May 17th he wrote a second post where he partly explains why he removed the blog but he seems to forget to mention that why we were so angry about it in the first place and the hurt it caused many as we had just heard that Mrs Kirby had passed away. Since then the funeral of Mrs Kirby has taken place (just before the local council count and many Labour councillors attended before returning to the Corn exchange for the count.)

Since the election the same Tory activist has continued to post inaccurate posts and attempt to use twitter to be abusive. The local Tory leadership seemed to have washed their hands of any responsibility as they state he not a member of their group and no longer a candidate – I am sure he will be selected again for Gipping next May. But more worrying for them should be that it seems younger Tory activists including one of their local party officers seem to believe his behaviour is acceptable and join in with some of his abusive tweets.

This week he returned to posting ‘Stupid things Alasdair Ross has said this week’ – I do wonder if he has anything better to do, I did not feel angry just slightly sad for him that he wishes to spend his spare time posting such rubbish. I know I am not perfect and often rub people up the wrong way but I come from a job where your wear your heart on your sleeve, where if someone disagrees with you they tell you to your face, discuss it like men and then carry on – united. Reading his drivel made me think what would my ex-army mates think of him and his comments – on an earlier post he stated that it is ‘what you do for your country that counts’ – I think I have done quite a bit for my country and I think back to sitting in hedges in the rain in Belfast, spending cold dark nights protecting one Serb granny in a village on the Croatia border but always on those occasions surrounded by soldiers who would do anything for you, a pride in being a member of a group, of a discipline that only comes from sharing the same regimental ethos.

He also accused me of assaulting 3 Tories at the count- a serious accusation- whilst the count was going on a number of Tories decided not to allow us to validate the ballot papers and they decided they would take all the places by the table, after asking for one of them to move, and their refusal – I had to attempt to push my way through (again I think back to Belfast, Pristina and Sangin – attempting to push through to able to witness the count is under no definition assault) - when one of the three a large Tory, who I have never seen in Ipswich before stated he would ‘take me outside’ which made me smile! In the end we had to get the Tory agent to tell them to stop acting like children and move away from the table to allow all political groups to validate the ballot papers.

Their boorish behaviour would continue later, after Mr Gummer made a speech that was both humble and one that was right for the occasion, the local Tories (not all of them but a largish number) decided to jeer when our candidate spoke, an action that seemed to even embarrass Mr Gummer.

So what now? I will continue to fight for what I believe is right, to represent my constituents and work hard for a better Ipswich whilst taking an active role in the local Labour Party and the national organisation.

How will I deal with what I expect will be continuous abusive tweets and posts full of inaccuracies from certain Tories?
Hard as it is, I will try and ignore them – to help again I will think back to what my mates who sat in the same hedge in Belfast with me would say about him – it would not be complimentary! But they would also say the best way to defeat people like that is to work harder and to continue to fight for what you believe in – they are right.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Brunswick Road Post Office - moving location

Brunswick Road -
Post Office moving

The Post Office is proposing to move the Post Office services in Brunswick Rd.

The plan is to close the current office and move the services into the Mace shop - 3 doors away from the current Post Office.
The Mace shop will undergo internal changes to help customers.

The new Post Office will open longer with an earlier start plus it will be open on a Sunday morning. The changes are similar to those that took place at the Post Office in Selkirk Road last year.

You can have your say- the public consultation ends on the 23 June - by replying on line here or you can contact myself by 16 June at

It is proposed that new Post Office will be in place by August/September.

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.

We were defeated but we must not be defeatist

Still less than a week since the election and I am still angry, sad, slightly confused and deflated- we were defeated both here in Ipswich and nationally but we must not become defeatist.
We will now have that horrible period (which Labour seems very good at) of blaming each other and making the next leadership campaign one of left v right, ‘Blairite v Brown’ or stronger links to the Union or scrapping any sort of connection to unions.

I for one wanted Ed to stay on, to hold Cameron to task whilst we could have a long leadership campaign that not only chooses a new leader but sets out the direction the party needs to go.
But why did we lose? It was not down to either a lack of effort or poor organisation – here in Ipswich we spoke to thousands of residents, we leafleted, phoned and then went to speak to them again. There is talk that nationally that we focused on our ‘core’ support and did not speak to those who have voted Tory in the past – that cannot be said of us in Ipswich, in some wards we have spoken to over 80% of the electorate in the last 4 years – Labour voters, Tories, UKIP, and even the odd Lib Dem (when you could find them) But we lost the election because our national message did not sound like one of aspiration and we also did not allay the fears of those that thought a Labour Government would be one that would see interest rates and inflation rise.

Some local Tories (falsely) accused me of accusing the electorate of being stupid – words I never used – but we did fail to appeal to self-interest – but the point is do we want to appeal to the selfish side of people?

The answer has to be no, but we also do not just want to be the party of opposition, there are many in our party and even more so in the Lib Dems/Greens who prefer to be in opposition, much easier to shout from the sidelines rather than change things.

So we need to get back into power, we need to appeal to those who did not vote for us but not by just appealing to their selfish side but to persuade and reassure them that a Labour Government does not just mean higher taxes, people having an easy life on benefits and money being wasted on stupid projects.

Most people are slightly selfish – Thatcher, the Tories & Murdoch did not invent selfishness, greed and contempt for the poor & weak but they helped make them socially acceptable.
One way we could have done that was to be prouder of what we had achieved in power – here in Ipswich we have a University, a new college, a new 6th form centre, primary schools and a new building at the hospital – we hardly mentioned them whilst here in Ipswich, Tory Ben Gummer kept taking the plaudits for getting Ipswich academy (Holywells re-built) and Chantry school to be re-built soon – neither project as successful or as inspiring as the building of UCS.

Here in Ipswich the defeat is harder to stomach, because we had a great candidate in David Ellesmere, we had a better campaign team and we displayed to the Ipswich public that we could do a great job within difficult financial restraint but in the end people voted on national issues.

Ben Gummer who seemed to get more arrogant as the 5 year term went on may believe it was down to his own personal vote, for what he has done for the town and what he has pledged to do – not sure much of that had anything to do with his win. He did campaign hard, made good use of the media and is charming when you meet him but in the end he has delivered very little in the town.
But it is now important that we run a positive campaign for the next 5 years but also hold him to his 6 pledges, interesting within 48 hours of his win he was backtracking on one pledge as he stated there was little he could do to help with improving the town centre- did not read that in any leaflet before May?

The two Gummer pledges that we do need to monitor carefully, are the building of a ‘northern’ route and education. No longer can they blame everything on the last Labour Government though I did hear a Tory MP seriously state that they now had to clear up the mess left by the Lib Dems! On the ‘northern’ route, Gummer still seems keener on his Wet Dock crossing than pushing for a route to help the building of much needed homes on the Northern Fringe, and can now expect his Tory neighbour, Dr Poulter to do all he can to stop any road being built in his constituency so yet again Ipswich will suffer as the Suffolk Tories yet again ignore the needs of the County town.

On education he has pledged to help/force./push all Ipswich schools to achieve ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ when they are next inspected- I hope he achieves that, it is the least our young residents deserve- but I hold out little hope for this pledge to be achieved unless he holds the Suffolk Tory Council’s feet to an open fire – they have completely washed their hands of education in this county and they just seem hell bent on forcing all schools to become academies so that they no longer are held responsible for them.

So if Gummer wants to be judged on his pledges, we will make sure he is - but answer me this Mr Gummer – will you stand down in 2020 if you fail to deliver those 6 pledges (or 5 as you seem to have given up on one already) by the time of the next election? As Mr Cameron once said – n0 ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’.
The future? The Ipswich Labour party will campaign harder and longer, we will get fully involved in the debate on the new leader. We will continue to run Ipswich well at the same time holding the Tory run County and Ben Gummer to task.

We will recruit and mentor new members, much has been said about the link between the Labour Party and the Unions, here in Ipswich we have a great relationship with our local union branches – they did not just provide financial help but they were out with us on the doorstep every Saturday- talking to the residents, we need to keep working on improving that relationship. We need to and will continue to talk to residents, but not just on the doorstep we need to get out to other community events, talk to schools, churches, WI’s, firms – anyone who wants us to talk to them.
We need to speak to those who voted UKIP, understand why they did, talk about immigration and migration and offer solutions rather than try and just replicate the far right rhetoric of the Tory party.
We have to continue to fight, less than a week of a Tory Government and the union bashing has already started, and then the Tories wish to crush our human rights – we need to organise not mourn.

It will not be easy, the leadership election will be difficult at times, certain parts of the Labour movement will see this as battle of ‘left’ v ‘right’ but we need to come out of this stronger and more united.

At no time since the start of the 20th Century is the Labour Party needed more than now.

I will be fighting hard every day – we can win and must win in 2020.