How the wards were won

Now that a couple of weeks have gone by since the elections, the Cambridge political scene has calmed down a little. Daniel Zeichner has taken his place in the House of Commons; Julian Huppert has taken his behind the bar at the Cambridge Beer Festival, and doormats across Cambridge have had some respite from the torrent of political leaflets that battered them in recent weeks and months. So with a fortnight’s perspective, here’s a more detailed look at how the campaign went across the city.

As well as Cambridge’s representative in Parliament, voters in the Cambridge constituency chose 13 members of Cambridge City Council on May 7th. We’ve already seen that there was quite a difference between how people voted in the local and General Elections:

Here the darker colours show the vote share in the General Election in the Cambridge constituency; the lighter colours show the total vote share in the local elections. Poor old Queen Edith’s is excluded from the latter, as, uniquely among Cambridge city wards, it’s part of the South Cambridgeshire Parliamentary seat. As you can see from the graph, the local and General Election vote shares for both Labour and the Conservatives were pretty similar; the Greens, on the other hand, did a lot better in the local elections, whereas the Lib Dems scored nearly 8% more in the General Election.

That gives you an idea of the picture across the city, but what about the individual wards? The General Election totals for each ward aren’t announced at the election count, but the City Council’s Elections department has kindly sent me a copy of the figures. The ward-by-ward totals for the 2015 General Election are here; they’ve also sent me the corresponding numbers for the 2010 General Election, which are here. So here’s the ward-by-ward picture for the main Cambridge election battle, Labour versus the Lib Dems:

I’ve listed the wards in descending order of Labour’s lead over the Lib Dems. As you can see, Labour won seven wards fairly comfortably, by margins ranging from over 12% in Abbey, down to just under 6% in Arbury. East Chesterton was neck-and-neck, with Labour winning just three more votes than the Lib Dems – an even closer margin than Peter Sarris’s ten-vote victory in last year’s local election. In the three student wards, Castle, Market and Newnham, as well as West Chesterton, the Lib Dems came out about 6% ahead, while they notched up their biggest margin over Labour in Trumpington, coming out 12% ahead. It’s likely that Conservative tactical voting played a significant role here – but it wasn’t quite enough to send Julian Huppert back to Parliament.

The shift in fortunes since 2010 becomes apparent when you look at the corresponding figures for the last General Election. Here are the 2010 vote shares for the wards, listed in the same order:

This chart really brings out the emphatic nature of the Lib Dem victory in Cambridge in 2010. They beat Labour in every ward in Cambridge except Cherry Hinton, with strong showings in Petersfield, Romsey and East Chesterton, and huge leads of over 20% in their five strongest wards. Remember, too, that Conservative Nick Hillman managed to snatch second place at this election. What a difference being in government makes. Here’s another view of this data – the swing from Lib Dem to Labour between 2010 and 2015 in each ward:

“Swing” here is the average of the fall in the Lib Dem vote and the rise in the Labour vote, which gives an indication of how sentiment moved between the two parties – though of course the actual patterns of vote switching are more complex. The largest swings were in Romsey and Petersfield, compact wards on Mill Road with a relatively young and mobile demographic. The factors behind Labour’s strong showing here will have included a fairly left-wing population disappointed with the Lib Dem coalition with the Conservatives, and a relatively high population turnover resulting in voters being less aware of Julian Huppert’s record as a constituency MP. The next highest swings were in the student wards, Castle, Market and Newnham. Although the Lib Dems still won all three, their considerably reduced vote share was crucial to the overall result. A swing to Labour of 2.5% less in just these three wards would have meant a Huppert victory in Cambridge overall. Meanwhile, some of the lowest swings to Labour were recorded in their stronger wards, such as Cherry Hinton and Coleridge, where there was less of a Lib Dem vote for them to attack – indeed Cherry Hinton was the only ward where Julian Huppert managed an increase in his vote share this time.

So much for the main battle. What of the other parties in Cambridge? It was a pretty grim result for the Conservatives; here is the change in their vote share in each ward since 2010:

As you can see they recorded significant falls in their vote share in every ward, with little to relieve the gloom. There were particularly pronounced falls in Market and Newnham, while King’s Hedges was perhaps the least worst fall of a bad bunch.

The Greens scored a notable success in the campaign, with their first Cambridge local election victory since 2010 in a desperately close contest in Market ward. In the General Election, however, they managed only a small advance on the 7.6% that Tony Juniper scored in 2010, which at the time was the Greens’ third best result nationally. This time, Rupert Read’s 7.9% was only the 35th best Green showing. Here’s how their ward vote shares changed:

This year the Greens were focusing their efforts on Market, Petersfield and Newnham, and did manage a small advance in their General Election vote share in each of these. Conversely, their vote share fell in Abbey and West Chesterton, where they had been more active in 2010. However they have a very long way to go before they can mount a serious challenge for the Parliamentary seat.

UKIP managed a small advance on their 2010 showing, but did only just enough to hold on to their deposit. Here’s the graph:

It’s noticeable that UKIP did a lot better in Labour’s stronger wards, whereas in the more Lib Dem wards they scarcely troubled the vote counters. They just broke into double figures in King’s Hedges, where Patrick O’Flynn held a couple of election meetings, with Abbey and Cherry Hinton providing their second and third best showings.

Finally, how did Keith Garrett do for Rebooting Democracy? At this point I have to abandon statistical rectitude and use a different horizontal scale to show his handful of votes:

The numbers here are actual numbers of votes, not percentages. King’s Hedges was most receptive to the “Removing the politicians” message, but it found favour with just five residents of Newnham.

Although there are nearly five years to go until the next General Election (barring something completely unexpected), there is plenty going on in the meantime to interest the election addict. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have leadership elections underway, and more locally the residents of Romsey have a County Council election next month, to choose a replacement for Lib Dem councillor Kilian Bourke, who has resigned to take up a new job in London. In the longer term, as well as next year’s City Council elections, there’s also the looming prospect of a campaign where Lib Dem and Labour activists will find themselves on the same side – the EU referendum. I’ll be covering all of these on this blog. Stay tuned.

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