There are three characters at the heart of the general election campaign in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich - and one of them isn't even standing this time.

And this is a constituency that looks to have changed dramatically since the general election from a glance at the map - but actually that is something of a mirage when you drill down into the figures.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich - CSNI to those who actually go on the doorsteps - was rocked in April when its Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter, who had already been reselected for this election, defected to Labour.

Dr Dan Poulter defected to Labour in May.Dr Dan Poulter defected to Labour in April. (Image: PA)

He made it clear he would not be standing again and would be supporting his new party's candidate Kevin Craig in the election.

The Tories did not have long to choose a candidate - and the local association told party bosses in London that they wanted a local candidate. 

Last week Patrick Spencer, who has lived near Woodbridge for some years, was chosen by them to contest the seat.

This is a constituency that appears to have almost been cut in half by the new boundaries with the northern section being absorbed into the new cross-county Waveney Valley seat.

But while it looks as if the loss has been huge, the population in this area of farms, villages and a couple of small towns made up only a small proportion of its population.

This has been compensated by Needham Market being moved into the seat from the Bury constituency so the population remains very similar.

However it does make it a more urban seat - although in truth it was always fairly urban anyway with a large proportion of its voters living in three wards of north Ipswich, Kesgrave, Rushmere St Andrew, as well as Blakenham, Claydon and Bramford.

It also retains the towns of Framlingham, Debenham and Wickham Market - but Eye and Stradbroke have moved into the new Waveney Valley seat.

It's a seat that would look safe for the Tories in most general elections - but looking at current opinion polls and the results in 1997, Labour thinks it has an outside chance of causing an upset here.

Mr Spencer has lived in Suffolk for several years with his family and knows the area well. He is a former advisor to several Conservative Education Secretaries and is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Social Justice.

Patrick Spencer at the Anglia Retail Park in north west Ipswich.Patrick Spencer at the Anglia Retail Park in north west Ipswich. (Image: Paul Geater)

He is travelling around the constituency introducing himself to residents - and said he was delighted by the contents of the Conservative manifesto.

He was especially pleased by a pledge to look again at plans to put pylons across the countryside and see if it was more cost-effective to put power lines underground to protect rural areas.

After winning his party's nomination to contest the seat he said: "Suffolk is my home. I can't wait to get to work!"

Mr Craig is the owner of Genesis Public Relations, one of the largest companies of its type in the area and has stood for parliament before.

Kevin Craig with local activist at Kesgrave.Kevin Craig with local activist at Kesgrave. (Image: CSNI Labour Party)

He said: “This General Election offers a historic chance here. The reception we have been getting out and about Central Suffolk and North Ipswich has been incredibly warm.

"Even our former MP Dr Dan Poulter saw that only Labour can be trusted on the NHS."

There are five other candidates standing in the seat, including Reform UK's Tony Gould who was a Conservative member of Ipswich council for Whitton ward between 2021 and this May when he lost the seat. He is a former UKIP candidate in Ipswich.

 Brett Mickelburgh is standing for the Liberal Democrats while Daniel Pratt is standing for Green Party again after contesting the seat in 2019.

There are two Independent candidates in the seat:  Charlie Caiger and Mike Hallett.