A Sit Down with Sandy Martin MP

Following the vote last year which led to a change of MP for Ipswich, we lined up an interview with Sandy Martin last month.  Being apolitical in my approach to editing WL, I was very much looking forward to the resulting conversation….

Alexander Gordon Martin (Sandy to his friends and…..well everybody really) is relaxed and extremely amenable on a warm June afternoon in his Silent Street HQ.  London born and Winchester schooled, the 61 year old Labour politician started our chat by recounting a move to Suffolk when he was 14 and becoming involved in Labour Party politics in 1987, moving to Ipswich in 1993.  

“I have always been interested in the way the world works, but it was the Biafran War that made me think I want to make the world a better place.  I was just old enough to remember the images and thinking; I don’t want to live in a world as cruel as this”.  

Having attended Oxford University, but dropping out after the first year, Sandy confesses to having to start his working life and subsequent career in politics in an unorthodox manner.  “I spent a number of years picking anything that grew, planting date palms, housekeeping, working behind a bar….all sorts of things”.  Having also worked with chickens, Sandy discusses easily becoming a vegetarian and then opens up on the most depressing chapter of his workaholic background….working in a DIY store in Croydon!  However, this career path was to teach the future MP a valuable lesson.  “Having an idea of how retail works is useful, due to its multiple aspects”.

During the office of Chairman of the Halesworth Labour Party, Sandy met his partner in Spring 1993 and this was the catalyst for the move to his partner’s existing home in Ipswich.  Having first stood for election in Bixley, Sandy quickly identified housing & employment as key issues in Ipswich and joined Ipswich Borough Council’s (IBC) Community Resource Centre, helping residents apply for benefits & jobs and offering debt advice.  Elected as a County Councillor in 1997, in 2002 Sandy stood in the Borough Council elections and as a result, had to leave his post at IBC due to the resulting conflict of interest.

Fast forward to 2018 and Sandy still sees housing & employment as key issues for Ipswich, along with environmental issues and sits on the Environment Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee in Parliament.

Initial background check complete, we move on to current affairs and first up is the Upper Orwell Crossings project.

“I am 100% supportive of the vehicle crossing to the island site”.  To balance this enthusiasm, Sandy then discusses the main aspect of the Project.  “I see absolutely no point in the big bridge.  Having a big bridge would spoil the whole feel of the area.  If you live on Cliff Lane or Wherstead Road, you are not going to be happy”.  This inevitably leads on to a northern bypass reference.  “I would much rather see the money allocated to the big bridge spent on a northern bypass”.  Sandy has been very vocal about this matter over the months and we agree to revisit this in a later article.

We have to take a negative turn now and discuss homelessness.

“Homelessness is an issue that we’ve faced forever.  The number one thing I would say to anybody is do not give money.  You are encouraging begging and you are encouraging people from outside the area to come to Ipswich to beg.  If people want to donate, give the money to one of the number of charities that works with homelessness”.

Next up is Waterfront redevelopment.  What are the Town’s MP’s thoughts on investment in commercial versus residential around the Wet Dock?

“The real money is in residential, but we must get the mix right.  Firstly, we must not do anything that gets in the way of the water related activity; the boat building, the marina operation, everything to do with the Waterfront.  That’s why people visit.  Secondly, the focus must be on leisure and cultural activity.  A perfect example is the relocation of the record office to the University site.  Having the Hold move to the Waterfront is a great step forward”.

And finally….in any available leisure time?

“I am determined to keep as fit as possible, so I take part in the local park runs.  I do love food & drink and Broadside & Ghost Ship are favourites.  I recently tried the alcoholic-free Ghost Ship at the Suffolk Show and it was just like the real thing. Indian or Italian is my ideal cuisine”.

And finally, finally…..your legacy?

“No homelessness in Ipswich and I’m not just talking about rough-sleeping.  A place that people can call home, not roughing it in any way”.

Not a bad goal.