Significantly, whilst the Liberal Democrats have seen disastrously low votes similar to last year, coming behind the Green party in a number of places across the town, it is the Conservatives who will feel most unhappy after a dreadful night for them that saw them see much reduced majorities in their strongholds, with a full recount in Holywells as Labour slashed the Tory majority to just 49.
Labour gained Alexandra from the Liberal Democrats, and gained St Johns, Stoke Park and Whitton from the Tories. The Tories had hoped to gain St Margarets and Rushmere, but lost out in both seats. Alasdair Ross saw a massive increase to his majority in Rushmere, despite a concerted Tory effort to unshift him, whilst Andrew Cann beat off Stephen Ion in St Margarets.
But what was striking was the collapse in Tory support. On very low turnouts (7 in 10 voters didn’t vote) the Tories saw substantial falls in their vote against previous years, for instance losing 469 votes in Rushmere, 275 votes in St Johns and 233 votes in Stoke Park since last year. This will raise serious concerns with both new Tory Chairman Judy Terry and Tory MP Ben Gummer no doubt worried about how to arrest this slide before County Council elections next year and the General Election in 2015. Some may even wonder if Judy Terry, having pushed the strategy that has been slated by Ipswich’s version of Tim Montgomerie, former Chairman Gavin Maclure, should now consider her position as Chairman.
Last night was a terrific night for the Labour Party. John Cook and David Ellesmere have masterminded a fantastically well organised campaign that has trounced the other two parties. Helped by a Government that has acted more like an incompetent comedy turn than a steady hand on the ship of state, they have persuaded people who were still very angry with Labour after 2010 to positively vote for a Labour council.
For the Tories and the Liberal Democrats to rebuild over the next few years will require a lot of hard graft, of the sort that Labour did when they were in opposition. They need to ignore the council chamber – nobody cares what they say there anyway since the media don’t report it and nobody really watches – and get out on the doorstep talking to voters. They need to identify some good local policies, akin to Labour’s budget for jobs and growth, as well as identifying where their voters are.
In a low turnout election it is about how you turn your voters out. You can only do this if you know who they are. Working from good data, knowing who to knock up and when, getting your own voters signed up to postal votes, these things are not new ideas. Its about doing the basics properly. For too long both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have been prepared to campaign in April every year, whilst Labour have been out at all times of the day for the last two or three years. The differences between the Labour campaign and the Tories is clear – Labour win. The Tories (May 2010 apart) don’t.
Yes, the Tories and Lib Dems will say these are mid term elections and a lot of good councillors have lost their seats across the country because of unpopular but necessary policies from the Government. That won’t wash with the electorate. They voted Tories and Lib Dems out of office because they are mad at them. Because they are no longer sure that what is hurting is working. The challenge to Ipswich Tories and Lib Dems is to get straight back out on the doorsteps and explain why their solutions to the problems faced by the town, county, region and nation are worth voting for. Positive action for Ipswich was the Tory slogan back when the Tories used to win elections. Its about time both the opposition parties started being more positive about what they would do to improve the lives of those in Ipswich.