Yesterday the political world was catching up with the news that the Prime Minister was going to seek Parliamentary authority to call a General Election, the first time this has happened since the Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed by the Coalition Tory/Lib Dem Government back in 2010.
With polls over Easter showing the Tories more than 20 points ahead in the opinion polls, it is hardly surprising that Mrs May wants to gain a mandate for herself. After all, like Gordon Brown before her, she has never been tested in a General Election as leader of her party. She was anointed party leader after her only opponent bowed out. Having a mandate of her own will hugely strengthen her hand in Parliament and in the Brexit negotiations, and will end nagging questions from the irritable left about her legitimacy.
There are other really good reasons for her to go to the country now, as well. She wants to govern Britain in a radically different way to David Cameron, and so it is only fair that she gain a mandate for her vision of the world.
The Chancellor’s budget U turn over changes to National Insurance was made because the previous Tory manifesto in 2015 committed the Government to making no changes to NI. Likewise the triple lock on pensions, and other commitments for “the next Parliament” are likely to be junked as Mrs May seeks wider leeway to govern the country the way she would prefer.
Locally the picture is beginning to emerge as a rerun of 2015, only on much better terms for the Tories. With Labour a joke in most of the county, only Ipswich and Waveney are considered to be marginal seats – but with Labour seats with 10,000 majorities looking soft for targeting, Waveney especially looks to be a hard task for Labour this time.
Ben Gummer remains popular, although as a very solid remain supporter in a constituency that voted very strongly for Brexit, he is lucky if the Labour Party don’t pick someone who can embrace Brexit in quite the way he does – Mr Gummer respects the voters more than most politicians, and is passionate about democracy, even when he disagrees with their decision.
It is likely that Labour will pick David Ellesmere again to be their candidate; rumours that Jane Basham wants the job are likely just Tories stirring trouble, and while Mr Ellesmere saw Mr Gummer increase his majority last time out, he’s likely to fancy his chances again now.
The Lib Dems have been mostly anonymous in General Election terms in Suffolk, but will expect a better result in Ipswich than the last time, as their vote nationally recovers from 2015, and as the Government and Opposition embrace of Brexit pushes Remain voters into their arms. They were reporting a 14% increase in party membership as of yesterday.
The Greens and UKIP will no doubt both have candidates in Ipswich, if they can get people organised quickly enough, and we may see the usual nondescript Independent candidates. Reform Suffolk might decide that a General Election candidacy is a way of forcing their issue (Ipswich Unitary) up the agenda.
Outside of Ipswich and Waveney, Spy doesn’t expect anything to change much. All the Suffolk MPs are relatively young and so no retirements are expected, and the other five seats are considered safe Tory seats – they all returned Tories in the Tories worst result for decades, back in 1997.