Early promotion for Mr Gummer

Ben Gummer (Ipswich) has been appointed to the prestigous Justice Select Committee, along with Liz Truss (South West Norfolk), replacing Jessica Lee (Erewash) and Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) respectively. Mr Gummer spoke in his maiden speech of his desire to make penal reform one of the issues in which he takes a particular interest, and no doubt his familiarity with Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke (Ben’s father, Lord Deben, was at Cambridge with Mr Clarke as well as serving alongside him in both Thatcher and Major Governments) will stand him in good stead amongst his new colleagues.

Interestingly, Anna Soubry won her seat from Labour in the face of a campaign by “Conservatives for Nick Palmer” the outgoing Labour member. That was set up by recent Labour party member Russell Whiting, who explains all to the Labour Party Conference here. Russell will be well known to some Tories in Suffolk Coastal and Ipswich, since he used to be a member of the Tories here. He is now a proud member of Broxtowe CLP! A political journey indeed!

Anyway, we digress. Mr Gummer will be under pressure from constituents in Ipswich on two sides of an old debate. Ken Clarke has made public his intention to reduce the number of short term prison sentences, preferring instead community punishments. Yet the public are instintively uncomfortable with that position, and feel that punishments are rarely as harsh as they’d like. Into this crucible arrives Mr Gummer, who it would seem has sympathy with the message the Justice Secretary is sending, yet has to reconcile this with both his party members (although Ipswich has all too few of those) and his voters, who will want a tougher line taken with the department to encourage fewer community sentences and more criminals sent to jail.

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5 Responses

  1. Ipswich hasn’t got to many Tory party members? So why was it that Ipswich Labour sent an Email to all it’s members during the election saying “We need every hand on deck. The Tories were everywhere and we are being completely swamped.” ????????

    • Because the Tories were able to bring in activists from other constituencies, as well as helpers who weren’t even members. Ipswich Conservatives had 110 members on 31st December 2009 whilst Labour had 268 members at the same date. By comparison Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Conservatives had 696 members, South Suffolk had 858 members and Suffolk Coastal had 1154 members. So we feel Ipswich Spy is on fairly solid ground in claiming Ipswich Conservative Association doesn’t have a huge number of members, unless they have somehow recruited several hundred members this year. All these figures should be accurate, they were declared by the relevant accounting units to the Electoral Commission.

  2. Kevin I can understand your bewilderment, but the election seriously enthused the activist base among the Conservatives while the Labour Party were quite depressed . The Lib Dems did quite well at getting people out until Mark Dyson sent some moaning emails, he was useless.

    The other fact is that the Labour membership was quite old at the election so not that active, although they claim that they’ve got a few younger members now. I think Labour are far more prone to padding their membership numbers with nominal fees for young people, old people and people with beards. That used to be a Tory move (in some constituencies we lost money on the members after the cost of delivery) but that was changed in the party reforms of the 1990s when party membership became a minimum of £25.

  3. Thanks James, that would explain why we saw so few Labour activists during the election except when Hattie or Gordon came to town and even then there seemed to be more Conservative activists around. As for the Lib dems, they just were not here.

    • This is what Labour defines as a “member”

      Under 27 you only need to pay £1, and they pay their subs. It may be a good investment in building up activists (I happen to think so) but it also means that their membership numbers are undeniably padded.

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