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Why Did Tory Ben Gummer Lose Ipswich to Labour’s Sandy Martin?

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‘Mr Ipswich’ Off to Spend More Time in the Pub.

“Just 48 hours ago he was one of the most powerful men in the British government. Now Ben Gummer’s parliamentary career has come to an abrupt end – whether temporarily or permanently. Why did he lose?”

Writes the ‘Big Fella’ Paul Geater in the Ipswich Star.

During the campaign Ben Gummer always seemed supremely confident, talking confidently about Labour voters switching to him because they didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. If this was all spin then he and his team were acting very well when they spoke to me!

Even after our survey suggested Sandy Martin was in the lead, they insisted all was well – but clearly things were not going as well as he hoped. Why?

Firstly many people voted for the first time. Turnout was significantly up and many of these appeared to be young people.

They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.

The number of people voting Conservative in Ipswich actually went up between 2015 and 2017 by about 1,600 – but Labour’s vote increased by more than 6,000 votes. The UKIP vote fell by 4,000 – but these votes appear to have been split evenly.

Some policies were not popular: workers said the confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments had worried some voters.

The lack of attention from big-name visitors also gave the impression that Tory High Command took Ipswich for granted. They seemed to think that a Cabinet minister with a 3,733 majority couldn’t need help.

Some voters appeared to feel that Mr Gummer’s focus was no longer on the town with his new ministerial role – and the fact that he did not have a home in Ipswich at the time of the election did not help.

Given his work in the town, this was probably unfair – but it created an impression his opponents could exploit by emphasising that Mr Martin had lived in Ipswich for decades.

And a number of small policy statements caused real problems – one of the most irritating for workers was the suggestion that the government could repeal hunting legislation. One of his team said to me: “Why couldn’t she (Theresa May) just shut up about that. It’s not a big issue but it could cost us a few hundred votes!”

Another series of explanations:

  • The Labour vote, as Geater notes, grew amongst young people. As he says, particularly of first-time voters, “They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.” This is a national trend. Most studies of voting behaviour in the UK underline that most people cast their ballot in line with countrywide trends. This would equally apply to people’s concern with “confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments”, a worry that  was reflected all over Britain. The Star and EADT’s political columnist could have added that young people’s interest in the issue of tuition fees was not just something ‘out there’. It was very evident on the ground. In my own street when delivering Labour leaflets a young bloke saw the Party sign and raised a clenched fist while saying “Up the Labour! I want Corbyn to sort out my tuition fees”. Others can confirm that this was very far from a one off incident.
  • If the Tory High Command “took Ipswich for granted” this was hardly the case for Ben’s own team. They have worked hard over the years to build up an image of the Conservative MP as Mr Ipswich, even putting on their web site a map of the town which you could click on to find what “Ben had done” to help, street by street.  When this Blog pointed out, in a kindly way,  that this may be seen as arrogant, the chart disappeared. But similar bold claims about the candidate’s actions “for Ipswich” continued.
  • The “focus on the town” is, as a result, a more complex issue than Geater’s comments reveals.  Ben’s constant efforts to portray himself as the Minister for Ipswich, and the Best Friend Ipswich has ever had, were not universally appreciated whatever the merits of the former MP’s efforts.  I could cite the the freebie Waterfront Life, which those of us who leave not far from the old Docks, receive. He gave – in two pieces, The Winerack and Non-Political Question Time  – the impression that it was the Right Hon. Gummer who was Ipswich Borough Council, The Right Hon who was the man pioneering the Town’s future. Those who know that the hard working Labour councillors who run Ipswich Borough were not impressed.  Nor were his ‘matey’ evenings, Ben in the Pub, appealing to everybody. Some would have welcomed his focus elsewhere, especially, as many remarked, as  Gummer does not live in Ipswich.
  • It was not just the Conservative Manifesto’s promises for future policies, such as bringing back hunting, but present ones that were unpopular. Locally voters would see that austerity affects their lives directly. Suffolk County Council is at present Tory run. It has ruthlessly cut services, including social care, and outsourced many of their activities. They are in a sorry state. To take one example, the massive cuts in provision for young people, particularity the disadvantaged, is storing up social problems.  To this one could add long-standing problems about the County Council. Many voters are aware of the mess their contracted out Highway Services  is in: the state of the roads in Suffolk is a standing joke.
  • Ben Gummer made much of his commitment to improved rail services. Those who use the trains to get to London will have noticed that his efforts have not affected the steadily deteriorating rail links, and the sky high ticket prices that privatisation has brought. Many will perhaps considered that Gummer’s claims, made since 2010 with no visible result,  are rubbing salt in open wounds. These are just some hard-to-ignore  examples of how Conservative rule has made people’s lives worse and have surely undermined the former MP’s support.
  • If there was one thing which sums up the results of Conservative government cuts, and mean-spirited welfare system, it is the constant presence of street-begging and rough sleepers in Ipswich. People in the town feel shame that in a wealthy country we have the homeless and destitute left to ask for money in the streets.

Then there is his opponent, Sandy Martin who ran an enthusiastic campaign, backed by an energetic team that included many young people.

  • Sandy Martin by  is known across the town as a man whose tireless work, not constantly flagged up as the acts of Mr Ipswich, have made a real difference. From case-work as a Town (until not that long ago) and (now) County Councillor, Sandy has built up a solid reputation as a reliable and likeable local figure. A broad constituency, from ordinary town residents, campaigners on a wider variety of issues,and labour movement activists know that Sandy is somebody who has stood on their side and contributed to their work.
  • Ipswich Labour Party has a well-organised network of supporters, from every walk of life, prepared to talk to and listen to Ipswich people. Sanday’s campaign reflected this. It was very obvious during the campaign that the party is deeply rooted in Ipswich. With a good candidate, the local party backing, the radical and democratic politics in Labour’s Manifesto  found an audience.

Finally,….

Not everybody likes ‘Ben’s Bridge’ either,

General election 2017: New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin to ask for rethink on Orwell Crossing link

New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is to ask the Department for Transport to look again at the proposals for a large new bridge between Wherstead Road and Cliff Quay.

He is to ask the government to look at diverting the money to help fund the £100m project to a northern by-pass for the town.

It was one of his pledges during the election campaign, and he is planning to take up the issue when he travels to Westminster next week.

He said: “There are three bridges proposed as part of the Upper Orwell Crossing. Two of them – the road bridge to the island site and the footbridge over the lock gates – I wholeheartedly support.

“But the largest bridge does not have public support and I shall be speaking to the department to see if the funds can go to a more important strategic route, the northern by-pass.”

The crossings were strongly backed by former MP Ben Gummer – and are now a formal county council-managed project. The government funding is due to come through when work is about to start.

County council cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said it would be pressing ahead with the project. He said: “This is a full project, you can’t plan to have one or two of the bridges.

“And it isn’t possible to move the money from one Ipswich project to another in the town – if it is taken away from this then it would go to another part of the country.”

The crossing is also backed by the business community in Ipswich.

Catherine Johnson, chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Greater Ipswich said: “Firstly, on behalf of the Chamber we’d like to congratulate Sandy on being elected as Ipswich’s MP.

“Secondly, as with the other six Suffolk MPs, we are looking forward to working with him on a range of issues of interest and concern to the business community.

“We note his comments about diverting funds from the Upper Orwell Crossings scheme to that of the northern bypass. We hope to listen in more detail to his thinking on this particular issue.

“We also look forward to a productive dialogue on the overall need for Ipswich to have a modern infrastructure that allows a much freer and more efficient flow of goods and people both within and to and from the town.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

George Galloway Fails to Turn up to Election Count as he’s crushed in Manchester Gorton.

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“I used to be George Galloway”. 

The victory of Sandy Martin and the defeat of ‘Mr Ipswich’ and a key author of the Conservative Manifesto (Headline in Le Monde, “Défait de ‘l’homme de l’ombre de Theresa May) , Ben Gummer in the Suffolk County Town, has meant that  we are only just now catching up with the results elsewhere.

Our old friend George Galloway is down in the dumps – 5,7% of the vote.

Labour kept hold of Manchester Gorton following the death of veteran MP Sir Gerald Kaufman after the by-election was overtaken by Theresa May’s snap election.

Afzal Khan romped home to victory with a majority of 31,730 – comfortably defeating a challenge by George Galloway.

The seat had been up for grabs before the General Election following the death of Sir Gerald, the party’s longest serving MP secured 67pc of the vote and a 24,079-strong majority in 2015.

Former Labour MP and Respect Party leader George Galloway had tried to win back his Westminster pass by standing as an independent in Gorton this time around.

Despite a flurry of hype when he announced his candidacy, he failed to turn up on the night. Labour activists shouted ‘where’s George?’ as the candidates took the stage for the result.

Mr Galloway came third.

Instead the seat went to former police constable, solicitor and Manchester councillor Mr Khan elected as an MEP for the north west in 2014, romped home to victory with 35,085 votes – on a turnout of 61pc.

Manchester Evening News.

The detailed result should be available (but is not yet when I checked) on the BBC site here. Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency

Update: Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

2,615 _vote_share

There is also this, (Yorkshire Post)

Labour MP Naz Shah increased her vote by just under 10,000 votes after a bruising campaign in Bradford West she said was worse than the one she fought against George Galloway two years ago.

Ms Shah polled 2,944 votes compared with 19,977 in 2015 in one of the largest increased majorities seen so far in this election.

Ms Shah told The Yorkshire Post: “The level of misogyny I received in this election was incredible, I didn’t think there was anything that could have topped Galloway. “But here we are. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. “The people of Bradford West were very clear about what they wanted to see. They chose hope over division. “Bradford West is one of the poorest constituencies in the country, that is not the sign of a prosperous nation.

George Grant, Conservative candidate, came second to Ms Shah and ahead of the independent candidate Salma Yaqoob who polled 6,345. Mr Grant said he was proud of the clean campaign he had ran but said the “personality-based” campaign had been as bad as 2015.

He also declined to criticise Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election.
“The time frame of the snap election meant we had very limited resources and very little time to build a team. And not having a network of local councillors on the ground makes for a tough time. But we have had a positive impact and pushed the Respect candidate into third place.”

The seat of Bradford West has been one of the most hotly-contested and controversial in modern political history. A solid Labour seat from the early 1980s, it was the location of the so-called ‘Bradford Spring’, in which Respect candidate and former Labour MP Galloway won an unexpected by-election in 2012 caused by the resignation of former Labour MP Marsha Singh.

Mr Galloway’s party went on to gain seats on the council, including that of Labour leader Ian Greenwood. However infighting among Respect candidates quickly set in and Mr Galloway was defeated in 2015 when Ms Shah won just shy of 50 per cent of the vote in a contest that was mired in acrimony. Mr Galloway made accusations regarding Ms Shah’s forced marriage in which she disputed her version of events. He also found himself in hot water for tweeting the results of an early exit poll, prohibited under the Representation of the People Act.
Despite the crushing defeat inflicted upon him by Ms Shah which saw him lose 34.7 per cent of the vote, he indicated his willingness to contest the result. However he would fail to file the relevant papers within the three-week window required of candidates to contest results.

Naz Shah (Labour) 29,744

George Grant (Conservatives) 7,542 

Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem) 712

Celia Hickson (Green Party) 481

Muhammad Hijazi (Independent) 54

Derrick Hodgson (UKIP) 885 

Khadim Hussain (independent) 65

Salma Yaqoob (independent) 6345

Written by Andrew Coates

June 9, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Vote Labour, Vote on Thursday for Sandy Martin for Ipswich.

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Sandy Martin: Tireless Campaigner.

Labour’s candidate for Ipswich, Sandy Martin, is an outstanding campaigner.

With support far broader than the left and the Labour Party, Sandy has promoted Green issues for many decades, and, as a Labour and Co-operative County Councillor for St John’s, Ipswich he is widely recognised in his ward as a tireless representative for his constituents’ interests.

As leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk Sandy has opposed the Conservative led body austerity and ‘outsourcing’ – privatisation – policies.

An active member of the UNITE and a supporter of labour movement causes, Sandy is always willing to give his backing, and attend, union events and protests. From protests against Benefit sanctions and ATOS, to, earlier this year, the April “All Together for the NHS” march in London.

A democratic socialist and one of the  East of England Constituency Party representatives on the National Policy Forum, serving on the Transport Commission Labour’s candidate is committed  to making a real difference to people’s lives.

His campaign in Ipswich has been backed with real enthusiasm, particularly by young people.

Sandy is simply one of the best people in the labour movement and we are proud to have such a candidate.

This is the solution his so-called opponent, Ben Gummer, gives to Britain’s social problems.

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2017 at 10:53 am

International Bolshevik Tendency Endorses Labour to Break with Reformism and Build Revolutionary Party.

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Massed Forces of IBT Back Corbyn 

The IBT, deadly rivals of the Spartacist League, (The International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) is a revolutionary socialist organization founded by former cadres of the international Spartacist tendency (today the International Communist League). The following text is excerpted from the document “For Trotskyism!,”) announces,

Corbyn’s anti-austerity and anti-war message has resonated with millions of working people, but poverty, social inequality and imperialist war are inevitable features of capitalist rule. They can only be eliminated by expropriating the capitalist class and bringing production and distribution under the control of the working class organised as a new state power. The only way to realise this objective is to build a revolutionary workers’ party armed with a consistently Marxist programme, diametrically opposed to social-democratic reformism.

Vote Labour! Break with reformism! Build a revolutionary party!

The IBT is stern towards their former comrades of the Sparticist League.

The Spartacist League, regretting their previous enthusiasm for Corbyn, confesses that ‘our own newspaper accommodated to Corbyn by prettifying his line on the reactionary EU’. They claim that ‘Corbyn betrayed when it mattered by crossing the class line and serving the bourgeoisie in campaigning for the EU’ (icl-fi.org).

There is no class line between Leave and Remain. It is abundantly clear that neither the capitalist EU that has viciously attacked workers in Greece and elsewhere nor a xenophobic ‘little England’ wing of the ruling class offer anything positive for British workers.

Here are the Spartacists:

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The IBT continues,

We advocate a vote for Labour in this election to expose the contradiction between what Corbyn’s working-class base expects him to do and what his reformist, pro-capitalist politics will actually mean. The key task for British revolutionaries is to break the most class-conscious workers away from social democracy and win them to the perspective of building a workers’ party committed to smashing capitalism, rather than endure the endless futility of tinkering with it.

Meanwhile the Downingites (Liaison Committee for the Fourth Intentional) are made of sterner stuff:

Why do we say Corbyn is an imperialist politician?

We are pleased to see Corbyn’s Manchester speech has put many leftists on the back foot. Although it was no more than a pacifist speech nonetheless it exposed the USFI, the South American groups like the LIT, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, Workers Power/ the Fifth International, the Austrian RCIT and all the Grantites groups like the CWI and IMT, the British and US SWPs and international co-thinkers as pro imperialist stooges now because they are all to the right of Corbyn’s pacifist speech which has proved very popular with voters because it contains a modicum of truth against all the pro imperialist left.

Wall Street based global imperialism and its allied transnational corporations and subordinate imperialisms in Europe and Japan etc are the central enemy of all humanity and their defeats strengthens the oppressed everywhere. The liberation of Aleppo was the father of Jeremy Corbyn’s linking “failed policy” in Libya to the Manchester, pacifist though it was.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2017 at 11:59 am

Labour’s Policies on Social Security and Workers’ Rights: Pillars of a Sound Manifesto.

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Many people have commented, and will comment, and, who on earth  knows? will comment defavourably  on Labour’s policies .

Two areas stick out to me on this very sound Manifesto (full text here).

Both because they affect our people and because they are just.

Poverty in Britain is rising due to the Conservatives’ attempts to balance the books on the backs of the poorest. They have slashed social security over the last seven years, leaving more people in poverty, subject to a punitive sanctions regime, and reliant on food banks.

Labour will act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Conservative government’s changes. We will:

  • Scrap the punitive sanctions regime
  • Scrap the Bedroom Tax
  • Reinstate Housing Benefit for under-21s
  • Scrap cuts to Bereavement Support Payment.
  • The cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit (UC), and the decision to limit tax credit and UC payments to the first two children in a family, are an attack on low-income families and will increase child poverty. Labour will reform and redesign UC, ending six-week delays in payment and the ‘rape clause’.

With nearly four million children currently living in poverty, the majority in working families, we will commit to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy.

The Tories have completely failed on their promise of making work pay and on tackling the barriers to work faced by people with disabilities.

Labour supports a social model of disability. People may have a condition or an impairment but they are disabled by society. We need to remove the barriers in society that restrict opportunities.

A FAIR DEAL AT WORK

Work should provide people with security and fulfilment. But for too many people work is insecure and does not make ends meet.

The Conservatives boast about the recovery of employment, but our labour market is failing. Real-terms pay is still lower than before the crash, and jobs are increasingly low skilled and insecure.

A Labour government will invest in enforcement through a new Ministry of Labour, and empower workers and their trade unions – because we are stronger when we stand together.

So we will review the rules on union recognition so that more workers have the security of a union.

RIGHTS AT WORK

The next Labour government will bring in a 20-point plan for security and equality at work:

Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent – so that working conditions are not driven down.
Ban zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week.
Legislate to ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home – because it causes divisions when one workforce is used against another.
Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining – because the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is collectively through a union.
Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces – so that unions can speak to members and potential members.
Propose four new public holidays – bringing our country together to mark our four national patron saints’ days. These will be additional to statutory holiday entitlement so that workers in Britain get the same proper breaks as in other countries.
Raise the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) – for all workers aged 18 or over, so that work pays.
End the Public Sector Pay Cap – because public sector workers deserve a pay rise after years of falling wages.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm

As Theresa May Sets out Hard Brexit Stall, Left Brexiters Want to Reform, not Oppose Her Plans.

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We have only to Wait for Him to Comment on UK Election Vote…..

The Daily Mail reports,

Tory manifesto will guarantee end of free movement, UK to leave single market and no more meddling by Euro judges as May issues her cast-iron Brexit pledges.

Theresa May will place a triple lock on Brexit in the Tory manifesto to stop obstruction by diehard Remainers. Tory sources say she is set to include specific pledges to overcome opposition within her party and in the Lords. The manifesto is expected to commit the Conservatives to ending EU free movement and pulling out of both the single market and European Court of Justice. Senior Tories see the three measures as essential in delivering last year’s referendum result.

Socialists should oppose these plans.

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty speaks for a much wider constituency when they say,

Even on the basis of its existing policy, Labour could argue for opposition to the Tories’ Brexit plans, for defence of free movement and migrants’ rights, for remaining in the single market. We should fight for this. Otherwise Labour will go into the election echoing, or scarcely contesting, the Tories’ main message.

By contrast the remains of the Brexit left claim that they can reform these Brexit plans and harness them to their own ends.

Jeremy Corbyn must fight the election with socialist policies

It is clear that much of the pro-capitalist cabal at the top of the Labour Party will be secretly welcoming this election because they think Corbyn will be defeated and they can then replace him with some pro-capitalist pro-austerity leader. However, they could rue the day this election was called. If Corbyn fights on a clear socialist programme – for a Brexit in the interests of the working and middle-class – he could win the general election.

Or so, instructs the Socialist Party (ex-Militant)

The SWP states,

To win a Brexit that serves the interests of the majority rather than the bosses means dumping the Tories.

Some of the Labour right would prefer the Tories to win than to see Corbyn in Downing Street. They will have to be pushed aside.

Socialist Worker helpfully reminds us,

“Moderation” is the enemy. Labour would be in a better position if it could raise slogans such as—“For the NHS, not Trident missiles”, “Chuck out the parasites, take over the banks”.

And the union leaders should be stepping up strikes and protests, not holding them back in the false belief that such resistance harms Labour.

We want Corbyn to win—but that means more struggle not less.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2017 at 11:47 am

Counterfire calls for Corbyn to Follow Jean-Luc Mélenchon and “denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU as “capitalist con trick”.

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Rees explains to Corbyn how to follow Mélenchon’s book.

What, the masses, okay, John Rees and the groupuscule Counterfire, ask, should we do about Theresa May’s “gamble”, her all-too-evident desperation.

Well, they reply, to themselves, it’s proof of that agony the Tories are facing.

She has called a General Election.

You can’t get more desperate than that!

So,  Bring it on

Rees is a-buzzin’ at French politics,

Only weeks ago, Marine Le Pen was destined to be stopped only by a Blairite candidate. Now the far-left candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has upset all predictions and, even if he doesn’t make the second round, he has rebuilt the French left.

Jeremy Corbyn should be aiming to make good the poll deficit by similar methods because Melenchon was at least as far behind in the polls when the French Presidential campaign began as Corbyn is now.

So,

….audacity is the order of the day. Corbyn should take a leaf from Mélenchon’s book and denounce the banks and corporations, NATO and the EU, for the capitalist con trick they are. He should unashamedly run as the establishment’s unbending opponent and as the outspoken champion of working people, the unions, and the social movements.

Then, if he fails, at least it will not be by his own hand and at the cost of demoralising the left and working people, their organisations and their hopes.

Yup, Mélenchon’s strategy of replacing the Socialist Party, that is Labour’s sister party, and his struggle for French “independence”, waving of tricolors an all, is just the recipe for a Labour victory.

He could also try a few of the poems Melenchon likes to stud his speeches with,

Mes frères, c’est dans la Paix que nous respirons à pleins poumons
L’univers entier avec tous ses rêves…
Mes frères, mes sœurs, donnez-vous  la main…
C’est cela la Paix.

Yánnis Rítsos.

Or this:

Rees is resolutely upbeat.

There may or may not be a majority Labour government, but that is not the only bad outcome for the Tories. There may be a minority Labour government supported by the SNP. There may be a Tory government with a reduced majority, and that would be a huge disaster for the whole UK ruling class and a huge opportunity for the left.

Those majority Tory governments are surely always an opportunity……

We need to make Theresa May’s election gamble her last, argues John Rees