There is now less than a fortnight left until Cambridge voters go to the polls to elect one-third of their City Councillors. In my previous article, I described how the Mayor’s casting vote means that the Lib Dems only have to win four of the 14 seats at this year’s elections to retain control of the City Council. Here’s a graphic that summarises the situation:
The numbers across the top show the possible numbers of seats that could be won by the Lib Dems and Labour this year, and the coloured squares below them show which party would then have overall control of the City Council, and the size of their majority. I’m making a few assumptions here to simplify the picture: firstly that Labour will win Abbey from the Greens, secondly that Independent councillor John Hipkin will hold on to his seat in Castle, and thirdly that all the other seats will be won by either Labour or the Lib Dems. I think Abbey is a fairly good bet for Labour; they took the seat from the Greens there last year, this year the incumbent Green councillor is standing down due to illness and the Green party in Cambridge seems to be in some disarray generally. Castle is perhaps less certain, given the volatile state of the student electorate. But John Hipkin’s victory in 2008, when his main rivals the Lib Dems were a good deal more popular nationally than they are now, shows that he can muster the organisation and support necessary to win. The Conservatives will be hoping to do well in Trumpington, but the national picture and their limited local resources are against them.
Given these assumptions, the graphic shows that Labour will need a landslide to take control this year. Even if they win 11 of the 14 seats this time, with just two for the Lib Dems and one Independent, bringing their total to 21, Labour would still need the Mayor’s casting vote to control the Council – but the other 21 councillors, combined with the outgoing Lib Dem mayor’s casting vote, could combine to elect a non-Labour mayor.
But what about Labour’s prospects of winning control at the elections after next? First of all, they will have to wait a while. In 2013 there are no City Council elections; Cambridge will be electing its 14 County Councillors instead. The next elections for the City Council will be held in 2014, when the 14 City Councillors elected in 2010 will be up. That year the Lib Dems won a record 11 seats, with just two for Labour and one for the Greens. With the collapse in Lib Dem support since then, Labour are well-placed to win back several seats. But how many will they need to take control? This graphic shows the position:
Again the numbers across the top show the possible results this year, with the same assumptions as above. The numbers down the side show the possible results in 2014. As with 2012, I am making some assumptions about 2014: that only Labour and the Lib Dems will win any seats; that the Greens will lose to Labour in Abbey, and that there will be no defections or by-elections. I think these are less certain than my earlier assumptions – a lot can happen politically in two years – but still reasonably likely. The coloured squares in the grid show which party would have overall control of the City Council after the 2014 elections, and the size of their majority, for each combination of results in 2012 and 2014.
I’ve highlighted the central area on the assumption that Labour are almost certain to win their four safest seats (Cherry Hinton, Coleridge, Abbey and Petersfield) and the Lib Dems are very likely to hold on to their three safest (Queen Edith’s, Trumpington and West Chesterton), leaving the middle part of the grid as the battleground. However, even within this area, some results seem a good deal more likely than others. My central prediction is that the Lib Dems will win five or six seats this year, keeping control for now, but that at the next elections Labour will win at least seven, and after fourteen years out of office, will regain control of Cambridge City Council on Thursday 1 May 2014.