Postal voting in Cambridge

Here’s a quick look at postal voting in the recent General Election in Cambridge. Once upon a time, you had to give a reason for asking for a postal vote, such as being away on polling day, or having a disability that made it hard to get to the polling station. However, in 2001 the law was changed to introduce postal voting on demand – any voter could have a postal vote simply by asking for one, without giving a reason. It was hoped that this would increase voter turnout at elections. It also led to concerns about fraudulent voting, but the system is currently still in place.

A significant feature of postal voting is that postal voters typically have a greater chance of actually casting a ballot than voters who go to the polling station in person. In the recent General Election in Cambridge, the overall turnout was 62.3%, but amongst postal voters it was significantly higher, at 82.4%. For this reason, political parties are keen to get their supporters to register for postal votes, to increase the chance that they will actually get round to putting their X on the ballot paper.

So how many postal voters are there in Cambridge? Here’s the graph:

This shows the number of people registered to vote in person and by post for each of the 13 wards in the Cambridge Parliamentary constituency, at the General Election. As you can see the size of the wards varies quite a bit; there are 5,666 voters in King’s Hedges but 7,693 in Market. However the figures are distorted a bit by changes to voter registration this year, which mean that many former students who have now left Cambridge are still on the register. This boosts the numbers in the student wards, principally Castle, Market and Newnham. Trumpington, on the other hand, just has a lot of voters, partly because it’s one of the areas where a lot of new development is going on.

Here is the graph again, this time showing the percentage of voters in each ward registered to vote by post:

The student wards have relatively fewer postal voters, whereas the wards with more settled, and perhaps more elderly, populations such as Cherry Hinton and West Chesterton tend to have more. But overall just 14% of Cambridge voters are registered for a postal vote – most people still have to get themselves to their local polling station on election day in order to participate in the democratic process.

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The 2015 Cambridge election results in detail

Now that the dust has settled after Thursday’s extraordinary elections, here’s a detailed look at the results in Cambridge. The Parliamentary race was a desperately close-run thing, with Daniel Zeichner defeating Julian Huppert by just 599 votes, or 1.1% of the total:

For both Labour and Conservatives, the Cambridge election brought a mixture of triumph and disaster. Labour succeeded in sending Daniel Zeichner to Westminster, only to find that he would be sitting on the opposition benches when he got there. The Conservatives triumphed nationally despite all the opinion polls to the contrary, but in Cambridge recorded their worst-ever share of the vote. For the Lib Dems, however, the election brought a mixture of disaster and more disaster – as well as narrowly losing the Cambridge seat in a desperately closely-fought campaign, they suffered a truly catastrophic electoral meltdown nationally.

The other three candidates performed more or less as expected – Rupert Read fractionally increased the Green vote share, from 7.6% to 7.9%, but never seriously threatened to make much headway. He will have been pleased, however, to help elect a Green councillor in Market ward. Patrick O’Flynn’s perfunctory campaign for UKIP was just enough to save his deposit. Keith Garrett garnered just a handful of votes, a pretty typical result for a non-party candidate in Cambridge.

As well as the Parliamentary election, 14 seats on Cambridge City Council were up for election on Thursday. Here’s a look at each one:

Labour’s Caroline Hart held Abbey by a comfortable margin, though her vote share was down a bit, while the Lib Dems managed to finish second for the first time since the last General Election, due to a more visible campaign in a ward where they usually do little. The Greens, who won Abbey only five years ago, finished only five votes above the last-placed Conservatives.

The results showed a similar pattern in Arbury, a slightly less safe ward for Labour, where Carina O’Reilly won with a reduced but still comfortable majority over Lib Dem Tim Ward. UKIP appeared on the ballot paper for the first time in a few years, but made little impact.

With no Independent candidate in Castle this year, all parties saw their vote share rise. Conservative Simon Mitton recorded the largest increase, but still only managed to come third. Lib Dem Valerie Holt held off the challenge of Labour’s Patrick Shiel to take the seat.

Cherry Hinton followed the standard pattern of safe Labour wards, with Labour incumbent Mark Ashton winning comfortably though with a reduced majority over an increased Lib Dem vote. There was more choice on the ballot paper for Cherry Hinton voters this year, with the reappearance of Green and UKIP candidates, though they made little impact.

Another ward following much the same pattern was Coleridge, which re-elected Labour veteran Jeremy Benstead. There was a considerable boost for the Lib Dems here, echoing the pattern during the 2010 General Election.

East Chesterton has been closely contested in recent years, with Lib Dem Ian Manning overturning a large Labour majority to score an emphatic win in 2013, but Labour’s Peter Sarris winning the ward back for Labour last year by just ten votes. This time the incumbent Gerri Bird, who will soon complete her year as Mayor of Cambridge, won fairly comfortably for Labour.

King’s Hedges had the widest choice of candidates for the voters, with six candidates on the ballot paper. Incumbent Labour candidate Kevin Price won comfortably, with only a slightly reduced vote share. Independent Ian Tyes, standing for the fifth time, suffered a collapse in his share of the vote in the face of the more than usually vigorous party campaigns brought by the General Election.

Market provided by far the closest result. After a recount, Green candidate Oscar Gillespie was elected with 1,147 votes, just seven ahead of Labour’s Danielle Greene, who in turn was just six votes ahead of Lib Dem Dom Weldon. This is the closest three-way result in Cambridge local election history, as well as the lowest winning share of the vote – just 27.7%. Oscar Gillespie becomes the first Green councillor on Cambridge City Council since Adam Pogonowski defected to Labour in 2012.

Newnham was expected to be close, particularly given the larger number of students voting compared to “normal” local elections. In the event the Lib Dems held on with a reduced share of the vote, but a larger majority. Their new councillor is Markus Gehring. The Green candidate Kate Honey managed the largest increase in vote share.

Petersfield was a comfortable win for Labour’s Kevin Blencowe. Although targeted by the Greens, they only just managed a distant second place, just ahead of the Lib Dems.

Being the one ward outside the Cambridge constituency, Queen Edith’s saw a less vigorous campaign than the rest of the city. The Lib Dems held on relatively comfortably, with their candidate George Pippas re-elected by 400 votes, by far the largest Lib Dem majority of this year’s Cambridge elections. Conservative Andy Bower did well to increase his vote to within a whisker of Labour’s.

The reinvigorated Labour Romsey team managed its second victory in a row, with Anna Smith winning the seat ahead of Lib Dem Donald Adey. Remarkably you have to go back to 1997 to find the last time Labour won twice in a row in Romsey, in what was once a rock-solid Labour seat. The Green candidate Jane Carpenter also did well, increasing the Green vote share to 22%.

Labour did better than usual in Trumpington, due to running a full-on General Election campaign rather than their usual fairly cursory local election effort in this seat, though still finished third. Lib Dem Zoe O’Connell, defeated in East Chesterton last year by just ten votes, took the seat ahead of experienced Conservative campaigner Daniel John.

West Chesterton was once again very close between Labour and the Lib Dems, with Labour’s Mike Sargeant once again filling the runner-up slot. Damien Tunnacliffe was elected for the Lib Dems.

Finally, it’s worth taking a look at the difference in votes between the General Election and local elections in the Cambridge constituency. Here’s the graph – the darker colours are the General Election results, with the lighter colours showing the local election vote shares.

This suggests that a lot of people who voted Green in the local elections supported Julian Huppert in the General Election. Labour and the Conservatives had reasonably similar vote shares in both.

Thanks as ever to Colin Rosenstiel for election data.

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Why I am rejoining the Liberal Democrats

One of the things that first got me involved with politics was the battle over university tuition fees in the 1990s and 2000s. Fairness is one of the great driving forces in political ideas. It’s a basic human value. Small children understand it instinctively. I felt very strongly that it was unfair that the free university education that I’d got so much benefit from was being denied to others.

In a progression that will be familiar to many activists, I gradually became more involved with a local political party, in my case the Cambridge Liberal Democrats. It started with leafleting, then canvassing, and later I helped with the running of the local party. I went to Conference and joined in the discussions and voted in the debates. During the 2001 General Election campaign I was election agent in Cambridge for the Parliamentary and local elections. I reduced my involvement after my children were born, but continued to support the party locally, particularly at election time.

It was when most Lib Dem MPs reneged on their pledge on tuition fees in 2010 that I quit the party. I understood that a party in coalition cannot get all of its manifesto implemented. But the tuition fees pledge was not just a manifesto promise. It was a personal pledge by each individual MP. Some of the party’s MPs stuck to their pledge, but most did not. I asked myself, how could I defend this on the doorstep? And I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t.

Being outside party membership for the last few years has given me a different perspective. It’s made it clearer to me than ever that there are people of goodwill in all four main parties in Cambridge who really care about our city and our society. It’s helped me better understand the confirmation bias that plagues political debate and makes us think that our lot are always right and the other lot are always wrong. And I think it’s helped me understand the Liberal Democrats more objectively. But they are still the party that comes closest to my values and beliefs. And I agreed with a lot of what they did in Government.

Just as importantly to me, Cambridge is my home, and I want to be involved with helping it deal with the many challenges that it faces. There are different ways of doing this, of course. But in a democracy it’s elected politicians who make many of the important decisions, and it’s political parties that get them elected. Winning elections is a social activity that requires a coalition of the willing. Parties are an emergent property of democracy. If you want to be involved in the decisions that affect our societies, cities, and people’s lives, being an active member of a political party is still one of the most effective ways.

So now I ask myself, how can I continue to stand aside? And I come to the conclusion that I can’t.

So today I’m rejoining the Liberal Democrats.

Or at least, I’m applying to rejoin. Membership is “subject to acceptance by the relevant local party”. Let’s hope they don’t think I’ve been too rude about them over the last four-and-a-bit years. I’m well aware that I did virtually nothing to contribute to Julian Huppert’s recent campaign, while many others, party members and not, worked incredibly hard to secure his re-election. They came tantalisingly close to victory in the middle of the party’s biggest electoral meltdown for decades, while I wrote a few blog posts about them.

But better late than never.

Commitments to family and work are going to limit how involved I can get, particularly while my children are still growing up. Perhaps I won’t do much more than deliver leaflets and go canvassing, for the time being at least. But it’s feet on the streets that are the bedrock of politics, and it’ll be good to get back to that.

I’ll continue to write about Cambridge politics and local issues on this blog in what I hope will be an objective and constructive way. And I hope you’ll continue to read it.

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Where to find Cambridge City Council election results

I’m getting a number of visitors looking for the ward-by-ward results in the Cambridge local elections. I will be doing a post about them later, but in the meantime you can find the full results on the City Council’s website here – the ward-by-ward results are on this page.

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My prediction for the Cambridge General Election result

With polling day nearly here, it’s time to stick my neck out and have a go at predicting the Cambridge General Election result. Here’s how I think the candidates are likely to finish, in reverse order.

I’m expecting Rebooting Democracy candidate Keith Garrett to finish bottom of the poll, in sixth place. He started his campaign relatively late, and while he has put out leaflets across Cambridge, he has struggled to make much impact against the well-organised and much larger campaigns of the political parties. Another factor is that his message is aimed at people disillusioned with politics, one of the groups who are least likely to vote. Given the history of other non-mainstream candidates in Cambridge, I think he’ll finish with less than 1% of the vote, and won’t be getting his £500 deposit back. Still, I hope he’s enjoyed the experience of standing.

I think fifth place will be occupied by UKIP’s candidate Patrick O’Flynn. While he is a significant figure in UKIP nationally, he has put relatively little effort into the Cambridge campaign. He has held a couple of public meetings, and done some canvassing and leafleting, but his non-appearance at most of the hustings events is a fairly good indication that his priorities have been elsewhere. On the other hand, UKIP are of course much higher in the polls nationally than they were five years ago, despite being somewhat squeezed as the election campaign has worn on. On balance, I think Patrick will get 5% of the vote, just enough to retain his deposit.

The Green party’s Rupert Read has fought a passionate and energetic campaign, and appears genuinely to believe he has a chance of winning. However, this was also true of Tony Juniper, who fought a better-financed, if worse organised, campaign for the Green Party in 2010, but ended up coming fourth with 7.6% of the vote. I think it’s going to be fourth place again for the Greens this time, but will they have a higher or lower vote share? There are arguments both ways. On the plus side, the Greens have had more exposure nationally than in 2010, even though the “Green surge” has faded somewhat in the polls; the Green party seems more popular amongst students this time; their local membership has greatly increased, and the campaign certainly seems better organised. On the other hand, Rupert doesn’t have the same national profile as Tony Juniper, clearly hasn’t had the same campaigning budget, hasn’t got nearly as many posters up, and doesn’t have canvass data from regular campaigning in recent years, because the Greens haven’t been doing much. I’m expecting that these factors will more or less balance each other out, and Rupert will end up on about 8% of the vote – though I think the Green party will get substantially more votes in the local elections also taking place on Thursday.

Chamali Fernando has truly had a baptism of fire in her first General Election campaign. She clearly arrived in Cambridge with high hopes, and back in November was described by former Prime Minister John Major as being in a two-horse race for the seat with Labour, which (even though it was manifest nonsense) can only have encouraged her. As the campaign has gone on, however, it must have become apparent to her (as it was apparent to me even before she was selected) that she is going to end up coming third. Indeed I’ve heard it suggested that the strong likelihood of a third place result put off a number of Conservatives from applying for the Cambridge candidacy, because finishing third, following Nick Hillman’s creditable second place in 2010, would not look good on their campaigning CV. Furthermore, all has not been well within the Cambridge Conservative party, as former chair Nick Clarke made clear in a thinly disguised blog post, following his resignation as chair and subsequent defection to UKIP. As if this was not enough, Chamali has been on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse over the wristbands issue, about which I shall say no more given that legal action may be pending. What sort of vote share is she likely to end up with? The latest Ashcroft poll puts her on 17%, which I think is a bit on the low side. It seems to me that the core Conservative vote in Cambridge is somewhere in the low-to-mid 20s, and a key factor in the Cambridge result will be how successful the Huppert campaign is in persuading them to vote tactically to stop Labour winning – hence the variety of blue-ink leaflets featuring issues like tax cuts that the Lib Dem campaign has been producing. Chamali’s vote will certainly be down from Nick Hillman’s 25.6%, but I will be surprised if it’s really as low as 17% – my best guess as things stand is 20%.

That leaves 66% of the vote to be split between Daniel Zeichner and Julian Huppert. Over the last few weeks I have really swung back and forth on how I think this is going to go. For reasons that I’ve gone into in great detail about in previous posts, I don’t think the Ashcroft poll’s 9% lead for Julian is realistic; based on student votes, I’m expecting a much closer result. Similarly, I think the betting markets are overstating the chances of a Lib Dem win, as they are largely based on the Ashcroft poll.

In general – and this is based on my impressions, rather than hard data – I think Labour does better at canvassing in Cambridge, whereas the Lib Dems do better at leafleting. Labour often seem to be getting more door-knocking done, whereas the Lib Dem strength lies in pushing out the paper – both in the numbers of leaflets that they manage to put out, and in how effectively they communicate their message to the voters. However, in this campaign I think Labour have come close to matching the Lib Dems in terms of leaflets, while still being ahead of them on canvassing – and they have certainly got more posterboards up in many parts of the city. Running an effective “get out the vote” operation on polling day will also be vital, but both parties are good at that.

Another factor that makes it difficult to arrive at an objective prediction is my own involvement. I’ve known Julian since he was a student, and I was to some extent responsible for initiating his political career, as I asked him to stand for election to Cambridgeshire County Council in 2001, when I was Lib Dem election agent. Despite quitting the Lib Dems in 2010 over tuition fees, I will definitely be voting for Julian on Thursday – I think he’s done a great job as Cambridge MP. In contrast, I’ve only met Daniel to talk to at any length on one occasion, at the Be The Change Cambridge event in September 2014. I have to say I was quite impressed – I found him thoughtful and well-informed, and while he is certainly a Labour loyalist, he’s far from being the grey party clone that he’s sometimes portrayed as. During the many hustings events in the past weeks, he’s come across as passionate, committed and genuinely keen to make a difference for the people of Cambridge. At one of the final hustings events, City Council Green candidate Kate Honey argued that you might as well vote Green in the Parliamentary election, because whichever of Julian and Daniel wins, you’ll end up with a decent MP. While I won’t be voting Green, there is a lot of truth to what she says.

As well as Cambridge Labour’s local campaigning operation, factors in Daniel’s favour include the “air war” – the national media campaign. Ed Miliband has come across better than many people (including me) expected, and has not turned out to be as much of a liability as he once seemed. Meanwhile the Lib Dems have struggled to make much impact nationally, a far cry from the Cleggmania of 2010. Another important factor locally is the Labour student organisation, CULC, which has proved the most effective – and numerous – of the student political societies. It’s still hard to know where the student vote is going to go, but CULC have worked very hard to push it in Labour’s direction. On the other hand, Julian has several factors in his favour. One is simply incumbency – and first-time incumbency, at that – which is a valuable asset. During the last five years Julian has dealt with a mountain of casework for his constituents, which will certainly help his cause. With his emphasis on science and technology issues, he also appeals particularly strongly to the “geek vote”, of which there is a good deal in Cambridge (Labour have attempted to counter this by featuring Stephen Hawking in some of their leaflets). And then there is the simple fact that last time he got 14.8% more of the vote than Labour.

I think it will be a very close-run thing. But my best guess is that Julian will be re-elected, though by quite a narrow margin – 34% of the vote to 32% for Daniel.

We’ll know soon enough if I’m right.

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My predictions for the 2015 Cambridge local elections

With less than 72 hours to go until the polls open, it’s time to get my election-forecasting seaweed out of the cupboard once again and give it a good sniff. This year I’ll attempt to predict the results in each of the 14 City Council wards, as well as the General Election result – though you’ll have to wait until tomorrow later today for the latter. I hope you can contain your excitement.

Last year I got 11 of the 14 wards right, the same as in 2013. I underestimated Labour’s strong campaign in Romsey, where former firefighter Dave Baigent won the seat for Labour, defeating the sitting mayor, Paul Saunders. I also got East and West Chesterton the wrong way round for the second year running, though both were knife-edge results with majorities under 20.

This year I had better get my excuses in early and point out that the General Election being held on the same day makes things much less predictable than usual – as you can see from the graphs of results in previous years, which show a substantial Lib Dem boost in 2010 in wards like Abbey where usually they do little campaigning. This time I think the General Election will still give the Lib Dems a boost in the local elections, since Julian Huppert is polling better than the Lib Dems have done in recent City Council votes, but on a much smaller scale than at the last General Election. Still, this factor could be enough to tip the balance in a couple of wards.

On to the predictions. As last year, let’s do the easy ones first:

  • Abbey: Labour hold
  • Cherry Hinton: Labour hold
  • Coleridge: Labour hold
  • King’s Hedges: Labour hold
  • Petersfield: Labour hold

These are all now pretty safe Labour seats; while the latter two have elected Lib Dems in recent years, Labour have re-established a firm hold on them since the 2010 General Election.

  • Arbury: Labour hold

I nearly put Arbury in the previous category, but the Lib Dems are putting some effort in to the City Council seat this year, with former councillor Tim Ward taking on Labour’s Carina O’Reilly. While Labour may lose a few votes in the southern end of the ward over the Alexandra Gardens saga, they should still win fairly comfortably.

  • Castle: Lib Dem hold

With no Independent candidate this year, the Lib Dems should hang on on Castle, with Labour in second place. The large student vote here does add an element of uncertainty, though.

  • East Chesterton: Labour hold

I’ve managed to get East Chesterton wrong in both directions in the last two years. Labour now hold three of the four council seats, with the fourth occupied by a particularly hard-working Lib Dem councillor, Ian Manning. This year the defending incumbent is Labour’s Gerri Bird, the present mayor, who is facing author Shahida Rahman for the Lib Dems. I’m expending Gerri’s high profile and campaigning record to see her through.

  • Market: Labour gain from Lib Dem

Market is really difficult to predict. Traditionally a Lib Dem seat, last year saw Labour’s first win here since the 1980s, assisted by the Lib Dems suspending their candidate following an assault charge. The Greens have also been putting a lot of effort into the ward recently, and are certainly in with a real chance this year. The Huppert factor should assist the Lib Dems. The large student population adds to the uncertainty. On balance, though, I think Labour’s assiduous canvassing will tell in their favour, though I’m expecting a small majority and wouldn’t be surprised by either a Lib Dem or Green victory.

  • Newnham: Lib Dem hold

The first time I voted in a Cambridge City Council election was as a student in Newnham ward in 1986, when Labour won by four votes. In  most of the intervening period, Newnham has been a fairly safe Lib Dem seat, but it is now firmly back in marginal territory, with just 69 votes in it last year. However, I think the Huppert factor may tip the balance in the Lib Dems’ favour this time.

  • Queen Edith’s: Lib Dem hold

The only one of the fourteen Cambridge wards outside the Cambridge constituency, Queen Edith’s is having a relatively serene election, as the campaign progresses smoothly towards the virtually inevitable Conservative victory in the South Cambridgeshire seat. With Labour’s focus being on the Cambridge constituency, Queen Edith’s is probably going to provide the Lib Dems’ most comfortable win this year.

  • Romsey: Labour hold

The Lib Dems are certainly in with a good chance here, and the Huppert factor will likely help them, but I think Labour are probably going to hang on. After years of being out-campaigned by a formidable local Lib Dem team, the Romsey Labour Party has recently got back into its campaigning stride. It could be a close-run thing this year, though.

  • Trumpington: Lib Dem hold

While the Conservatives have targeted Trumpington heavily in recent local elections, this year the General Election campaign means they will necessarily be spreading their efforts more widely. Zoe O’Connell, narrowly defeated in East Chesterton last year, should win here for the Lib Dems.

  • West Chesterton: Lib Dem hold

Like its eastern neighbour, West Chesterton has confounded my prediction for the last two years. This time I’m expecting the Huppert factor to tip the balance in favour of the incumbent Lib Dem, Damien Tunnacliffe.

So overall I’m predicting 13 holds and one Labour gain from the Lib Dems. This would increase Labour’s majority on the City Council from 6 to 8, reversing the effect of the Lib Dem victory in the Queen Edith’s by-election in November. But as noted above, there are several wards where the result could be pretty close.

The General Election count will start as soon as the polls close at 10pm on Thursday, with the result expected at about 5am. There’s then a short break until 12 noon, when the count for the local elections will begin. This should be fairly quick, as the “verification” stage, which checks that there are the expected number of ballot papers in each box, will already have been done during the General Election count. I’ll be at the Guildhall for both counts to keep you entertained with a stream of tweets and the odd graph or two.

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The 2015 Cambridge City Council elections ward by ward

As Cambridge voters go to the polls on Thursday, they will be handed two ballot papers to fill in. As well as the next MP for Cambridge, they will also be asked to choose a councillor to represent them on Cambridge City Council. The City Council is elected by thirds, so 14 of the 42 seats are up this year. Here is a look at each of them.

For each ward, I’ve made a graph showing the local election results over the last decade, to give a bit of context. One particular point to note is that, in several wards, the 2010 result was noticeably different from earlier years – due to the General Election being held on the same day, more than doubling the typical Cambridge local election turnout of around 30%. It’s also noticeable that in local elections after 2010, the Lib Dem vote fell sharply in many wards as they suffered the electoral disadvantage of being in government at Westminster, while Labour’s vote rose as they sank gratefully into the warm bath of opposition.

On to the wards. First, Abbey:

Abbey’s graph illustrates the dramatic effect that a simultaneous General Election can have on local election results. After propping up the results table for several years, the Lib Dems shot up to second place in 2010, coming within 94 votes of taking the seat for the first time. However, the change of national government greatly boosted Labour’s vote after 2010, and Abbey is now one of their safest seats, with the Greens still in second place, but no longer seriously challenging them. Labour’s Caroline Hart, who has been an Abbey councillor since 2002, should be re-elected comfortably here.

After many years as a Lib Dem/Labour marginal, Arbury is another seat where Labour has racked up substantial majorities since 2010. This year former Arbury Lib Dem councillor Tim Ward, who lost his seat in last year’s election, is facing Labour’s Carina O’Reilly, Labour’s deputy leader on the City Council, and Executive Councillor for City Centre and Public Places. Carina has faced some criticism in the southern end of the ward for her decision to cut back plane trees at Alexandra Gardens, despite previously campaigning to save them. However, she should still be re-elected fairly comfortably, though probably with a lower vote share than last year.

Once a safe Lib Dem seat, Castle has provided a good deal of psephological excitement in recent years thanks to the Castle Independents, husband-and-wife team John Hipkin and Marie-Louise Holland. Last year Marie-Louise won the seat by just 20 votes, the narrowness of her majority being a surprise to everyone concerned. However, with no Independent candidate this year, Lib Dem Valerie Holt is favourite to take the seat, though the large student electorate in the ward will add an element of uncertainty.

Cherry Hinton is one of Labour’s safest seats in Cambridge – notice that this graph is taller than the others in order to accommodate Rob Dryden’s mountainous majority in 2012, when he took 73% of the vote. This year Labour’s Mark Ashton is seeking re-election, and it will be the Cambridge electoral shock of the century if he doesn’t get back in. Bonus points for persistence must go to Conservative Timothy Haire, who having been rebuffed nine times by Cambridge voters, is coming back in Cherry Hinton this year for a tenth attempt.

It’s a curious fact of Cambridge politics that Labour tend to do better in wards earlier in the alphabet, and Coleridge is another example of this. After some years when the Conservatives were in contention here, thanks to an active local team, Labour are now firmly in control, and their candidate Jeremy Benstead, who has already served 23 years on the City Council, seems virtually certain to be re-elected. Sadly there is no dragon fairy candidate on the ballot paper this year; Puffles has retired from electoral politics (at least for the moment) after racking up a creditable 89 votes last year.

East Chesterton was a knife-edge result last year, with Labour’s Peter Sarris defeating Lib Dem Zoe O’Connell by just ten votes. This year the defending candidate is the current Mayor of Cambridge, Labour’s Gerri Bird, who faces Lib Dem campaigner Shahida Rahman. Given her strong local profile and campaigning record, I think Gerri has to be favourite to hang on.

Although at one time they won King’s Hedges with quite respectable majorities, the Lib Dems have largely given up here in recent years, with the ward reverting to its natural condition as a safe Labour seat. However, with the General Election bringing campaigning to all parts of the city, Labour’s majority (in vote share terms at least) will probably fall this time. Their candidate is incumbent Kevin Price, who is facing Lib Dem newcomer Hugh Newsam. Independent candidate Ian Tyes is standing for the fifth time, but with the deluge of campaigning from the main parties, this is unlikely to be a good year for him.

Market is now one of the least predictable wards  in Cambridge. There were special circumstances last year as the Lib Dems suspended their candidate following an assault charge, though Labour might well have won in any case. The Greens came second with a creditable 26% of the vote, despite doing very little campaigning – the total expenditure on their election expenses return was zero. This year they are putting in a good deal more effort, but other parties are also running strong campaigns. With a large student vote that normally pays little attention to local elections, the result is difficult to predict (though I will have a go in a later post).

A once-safe Lib Dem ward, Newnham has been a much more closely-fought contest since the last General Election. In 2014, Lib Dem Rod Cantrill was re-elected by a margin of just 69 votes. This year the incumbent, Julie Smith, is standing down following her elevation to the House of Lords, and the Lib Dem candidate is newcomer Markus Gehring. His Labour opponent is another first-time candidate, law lecturer Ewan McGaughey. With the large student vote in Newnham ward, it’s difficult to predict the result this year.

Petersfield is another once-marginal ward where Labour have gained the upper hand since the 2010 General Election, though Lib Dem Sarah Brown did put a dent in their majority last year. This time veteran Labour councillor Kevin Blencowe is seeking a seventh term in office, and seems very likely to win it.

Queen Edith’s is unusual in Cambridge in that it’s the only one of the fourteen City Council wards that falls outside the Cambridge Parliamentary constituency, being instead part of the South Cambridgeshire seat. As a result it’s experiencing a much less intense election campaign than the rest of the city, as Conservative Heidi Allen is virtually certain to be elected as MP. Incumbent Lib Dem George Pippas is favourite to be re-elected for the council seat. Local resident Chris Rand has been doing a great job of covering the election in Queen Edith’s on his website, so have a look there for more details.


After proving fairly resilient in Romsey, the Lib Dems were defeated last year (contrary to my confident prediction) by Labour’s Dave Baigent. The absence of a Socialist candidate for the first time in many years no doubt helped Labour, as it should this year too. The incumbent Labour councillor Zoe Moghadas is standing down, and her colleague Anna Smith seems likely to succeed her as councillor.


Trumpington is that rare thing in Cambridge, a ward where the Conservatives are in serious contention. Indeed for the last few local elections they have focused most of their efforts in the city on Trumpington, winning it in 2012 and missing out by just 28 votes in 2013. This year of course Conservative campaigning will be spread more widely across the city, but their candidate Daniel John should still be in contention here. With incumbent councillor Andy Blackhurst standing down, the Lib Dem candidate is Zoe O’Connell, who was defeated last year in East Chesterton. While fighting Trumpington on the City Council, Zoe is simultaneously standing for Parliament in Maldon, Essex – though as this is a rock-solid Conservative seat, it’s unlikely she’ll be faced by the dilemma of winning both.

Finally, West Chesterton should provide another tight Lib Dem/Labour contest this year. Once a safe Lib Dem seat, the local Labour team have been gradually increasing their share of the vote in recent years, and took the seat in 2013 for the first time since the 1960s. Last year the Lib Dems fought back, winning a narrow 19-vote majority. This year incumbent Lib Dem Damien Tunnacliffe faces Labour’s Mike Sargeant.

Full details of all the nominated candidates are on the City Council’s website. Thanks once more to Colin Rosenstiel for his invaluable collection of Cambridge local election results.

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