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Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket’s new Labour MP Peter Prinsley on his history-making election and hopes for the future





On election day, Peter Prinsley’s one and a half-year-old granddaughter learnt to say ‘vote Labour’.

Her words echoed through to the early hours of July 5 when NHS surgeon Peter made history, becoming the first Labour MP elected to represent the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket constituency.

At about 3.30am in Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre, as the first hint of dawn began to break, a new political era began when the results were announced and cheers from Labour supporters erupted.

Peter Prinsley on his first day in Parliament. Picture: Peter Prinsley
Peter Prinsley on his first day in Parliament. Picture: Peter Prinsley

Just minutes before, the eight candidates and their agents had been called away from the count floor to be delivered the news which would send a shockwave across the county.

Peter, 66, said: “I had a sort of feeling of excitement but also apprehension.

“I had a feeling we would probably win because in the last week of the campaigning, it was so positive. Almost everybody came up to us, on all the street corners there were people hooting their horns and I thought there were a lot of people going to vote Labour.

“The Tory majority was so enormous we didn’t know quite what was going to happen to all of them. Some were going to go to us, some to Reform and some stayed at home - that added together to get us over the line.”

But they were well over the line, scoring 16,745 votes - a 1,452 majority over Conservative Will Tanner who gained 15,293 votes.

Reform UK candidate Scott Hussey secured 8,595 votes.

The seat was held by Conservative MP Jo Churchill since 2015 before she stepped down for family reasons.

Peter Prinsley and his team. Picture: Cheryl Godber
Peter Prinsley and his team. Picture: Cheryl Godber

Peter’s name will now forever be associated with history, turning a once true blue Conservative heartland red.

“It’s obviously exciting but daunting,” he said. “I feel like we’ve finally turned a tide. The tide goes in and out in politics and finally it’s come in for us.

“We were definitely helped by the fact that a lot of Tories voted Reform. I can see that happened in quite a few similar constituencies but I don’t think there were many where the majority we overturned was quite so large and the history of having never been anything other than Tory was quite so long so it made us a pretty unusual constituency.

”I felt very very pleased for the amazingly dedicated little group of talented constituency Labour Party members who had got themselves together.”

Peter Prinsley, Labour's winning Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket candidate. Picture: Thomas Howard
Peter Prinsley, Labour's winning Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket candidate. Picture: Thomas Howard

Although the national Labour Party didn’t put any resources into the seat as there was scepticism it could win, locally there was a belief that it was in play.

“We set about putting together a campaign which was a bit unusual - we had a number of novel things” said Peter.

They even had a battle bus which was an old Post Office van covered in campaign stickers.

“The Bury St Edmunds Labour Party had been very successful in the local elections last year in May so they did think there were a lot of people at least in the Bury part of the constituency who would vote Labour,” he said.

“We were more worried about Stowmarket where we hadn’t got much of a developed constituency party.”

Peter Prinsley and West Suffolk Council leader Cliff Waterman. Picture: Thomas Howard
Peter Prinsley and West Suffolk Council leader Cliff Waterman. Picture: Thomas Howard

Yesterday was his first day at Parliament for a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party followed by a series of induction sessions throughout the week.

“It’s a slight feeling of going off to a new school, sharpen my pencils and polish my shoes and I’m kind of ready to start,” he joked.

“It’s a completely new adventure for me because I’ve spent my whole career in hospitals so it’s going to be a complete change - I am looking forward to it.”

Peter has been an ear, nose and throat surgeon for about 40 years and currently serves at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and James Paget Hospital.

He said there were now four Labour doctors in Parliament and he hopes they will be of some use as the health service was top of the list of people’s problems during the campaign.

They included delays in securing a GP appointment and when calling an ambulance.

Peter Prinsley on his first day in Parliament. Picture: Peter Prinsley
Peter Prinsley on his first day in Parliament. Picture: Peter Prinsley

Another concern was the growth in housing in Stowmarket without the infrastructure to support it.

He said there was a sense that the East of England had been slightly neglected and there was now a significant group of Labour MPs to advocate for the region as a whole, with better infrastructure and communication.

This includes the Ely and Haughley rail projects and Peter is interested in exploring direct trains from Bury St Edmunds to London, which would be ‘transformative’.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Fuller
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Fuller

He said the new West Suffolk Hospital has to be built and had spoken to its chairman during the campaign to ask what a new Government needed to do to help the trust.

The first was resolving the doctors strikes and the second was agreeing the capital sum to construct the new hospital.

The trust had planning permission and done some preliminary digging but until there was a firm commitment to pay for the new facility, they really couldn’t press go on it, he said.

With his career as a surgeon, he said he was a much more plausible advocate for this and would be meeting with the trust again soon.

Asked whether he will continue his work as a surgeon, Peter, of Norwich, said he would like to carry on to some extent but still needed to work out a way forward.

He is looking to open a constituency office in Stowmarket and will probably move to the constituency in due course.

“It’s all happened so quickly, we’re still trying to work out how to run our lives,” he said.

A Norwich City councillor since 2023, he became involved in politics after his wife of more than 30 years Marian, a retired psychologist, was the Sheriff of Norwich.

They have three adult children - a son who is an A&E doctor in London, a daughter who is a lawyer and a daughter who is a journalist.

Peter is an honorary commander of the United States Airforce 48th Wing medical group at RAF Lakenheath.

He thanked the people of Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket for the ‘incredibly warm welcome’ they have received.

Peter added: “We will serve all of the people of Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket with all our heart and all our soul.”