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.