Yesterday, I looked at Bosmere, Gipping Valley, Hartismere, Hoxne and Eye and Stowmarket North and Stowupland. Today, it's time to look at the rest of Mid Suffolk's ten County divisions...
Stowmarket South... where to begin? Once Liberal Democrat (1993-2001), lost to Labour in 2001, it became a Conservative/Labour marginal in 2005 when a new Liberal Democrat candidate, Keith Scarff, came third with a respectable 22.4% of the vote. It's probably the most consistently hard fought of all the Mid Suffolk divisions - in 2005, the Conservative candidate won by 130 votes or 2.8%.
Keith was back in 2009, losing to Conservative Ann Whybrow by just 73 votes. In 2013, we got within forty votes of winning, and came third, with the UKIP candidate, Stephen Searle beating Ann Whybrow by just one vote. 2017 saw the Conservatives win the seat back through Nick Gowrley, with Keith in second place again, this time 132 votes adrift as the UKIP vote unravelled.
Since then, Nick Gowrley, who was the Conservative Leader on Mid Suffolk, lost his seat in 2019 to... Keith Scarff, and they face off again this time. We can probably discount the Labour candidate, but the wildcard is the Independent candidate, David Card. David was the Conservative District Councillor in Barking and Somersham for a year or so, resigning within a year to cause a by-election which was lost to the Greens by two votes - I was the slightly unexpected Liberal Democrat candidate who lost by 58 votes (was it really that close?), and resigned over the Conservatives decision to borrow £100 million to dabble in commercial property.
I'd expect David to base his campaign on attacking Nick Gowrley, which might on the face of it benefit the man who's been working the Division for sixteen years. And Keith's a lovely guy, so I'd love to see him win.
One of the weird things about Suffolk, if you're an outsider, is the names of some of the County divisions. Where, for example, is Hartismere, or Thingoe? The answer is Saxon Hundreds, which were the administrative divisions of Suffolk from Saxon times up until the end of the nineteenth century. And, because we're not used to getting rid of anything useful, some of the names have carried on, which brings me to Thedwastre North and Thedwastre South...
I'm hoping that Thedwastre North will be the more interesting one, with another former blue on blue contest. Jane Storey was a bit of a highflier in local Conservative circles but, in 2019, lost her District Council seat on revised boundaries to the Greens. Last year, she was de-selected as the County candidate, appealed and lost. And so, she's fighting the seat against her successor, Harry Richardson, who is the District Councillor in Thurston, the other main settlement in the Division. The Green candidate, Andy Mellen, won a District Council seat in Bacton, having painted his sheep with "Vote Andy", and is the potential interloper in this contest. There's also a Labour candidate, Ursula Ajimal.
Thedwastre South has been Liberal Democrat held since the 2007 by-election, and has been closely fought ever since - Penny Otton won the by-election by 94 votes, and hasn't bettered that in three attempts since (33 votes in 2009, 38 in 2013 and 83 in 2017). The Conservatives have picked someone from Bury St Edmunds, as opposed to a local resident, although that doesn't necessarily signify much. Penny will be fighting just as hard as ever though, which gives her every chance of retaining the seat.
Thredling is the seat of Matthew Hicks, the Conservative leader of Suffolk. He'll cruise home, I suspect, despite opposition from the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
And finally, Andrew Stringer won Upper Gipping in 2009 for the Greens from a stopgap Conservative candidate (our former District councillor here in Creeting St Peter) and, amongst others, me. He won by 500 last time, and the Greens have only strengthened their position across the Division since. The Conservatives are running a candidate, as are Labour, but I suspect that Andrew will be the only one actually campaigning.
So, that's how Mid Suffolk looks from the perspective of an interested observer. There could be a number of upsets across the District, which currently looks like this; Conservatives 7, Liberal Democrats 2, Greens 1. I wouldn't be surprised to see it end rather differently when the votes are counted on 7 May...