As well as choosing a Mayor for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Cambridge voters will be going to the polls on May 4th to select their County Councillors for the next four years, and the lucky voters of Arbury also have a City Council by-election. Here’s a look at the contest for each seat in Cambridge, and a few thoughts about the wider contest across the county.
I usually illustrate these articles with a graph for each seat showing its recent history of local election results. However this year I have been largely thwarted in this by the Local Government Boundary Commission, which has redrawn the seat boundaries for the County Council, rendering comparisons with previous years less relevant. The number of councillors across the county is being reduced from 69 to 61, and in Cambridge from 14 to 12 – East and West Chesterton are replaced by a single Chesterton division, poor old Coleridge disappears entirely, and many other boundaries are shifted. The picture is complicated even further by the fact that the City Council still uses the old seat boundaries, leaving the long-suffering electoral authorities with a bewildering patchwork of overlapping areas to administer. For example, here is the new County Council seat of Arbury, which is divided into six separate areas:
Each area has a three-letter code. The first letter indicates the City Council ward (B for Arbury, C for Castle, G for King’s Hedges, N for West Chesterton); the middle letter relates to the polling station; and the third letter indicates the County Council division. Another part of the old Arbury seat is now in the new Castle division. There’s a full set of maps on the City Council’s website here along with street-by-street lists. Colin Rosenstiel has also produced tables showing how much of each new County division comes from each old City ward, and vice versa.
Let’s have a look at each of the seats. As usual, recall that I’m a Lib Dem member (and have even done a little campaigning this year) so be on the lookout for unconscious bias. I’ll do my best to avoid conscious bias. Honest.
Abbey is the one County seat where I can still deploy my traditional graph, because it is the only one whose borders are unchanged – though only after a concerted campaign by various local activists to persuade the Boundary Commission not to add parts of Petersfield to it. So here are the election results for the last few years:
As you can see it was a very comfortable win for Labour last time, and Labour’s incumbent, Joan Whitehead, will be hoping for another substantial majority this year. The Lib Dem candidate is Nicky Shephard, who also stood last year, and who has been running an active campaign. Monica Hone is standing for a third year for the Green party, and the Conservative candidate is Kevin Francis, who has a long record of flying the flag for the blue team, though mostly in East Chesterton.
As mentioned above, Arbury has two council elections this year, albeit on different boundaries. For the County Council, Labour’s Paul Sales is retiring; Labour’s candidate this time is loquacious Australian barrister Jocelynne Scutt, who currently represents the old West Chesterton seat, which partially overlaps with the new Arbury. The Lib Dem candidate is newcomer Cecilia Liszka, a marine scientist. Lucas Ruzowitzky, a social entrepreneur and conservationist, is standing for the Green Party, and the Conservative candidate is Henry Collins, who works as a Deliveroo courier. Henry is also standing for the Conservatives in the City Council by-election, where he faces former councillor Tim Ward for the Lib Dems and Labour’s Patrick Sheil, who contested Castle last year, finishing second to John Hipkin. The by-election is being held following the resignation of Labour City Councillor Charlotte Perry, who has recently given birth to a son and will soon be moving to Hong Kong where her husband has a new job. Best wishes to all three of them.
For the City by-election at least we can still use last year’s graph:
…though the mountainous Labour majority in 2016 was due in no small part to Mike Todd-Jones’s personal vote. Nevertheless Labour will be hoping to win both the City and County seats reasonably comfortably this year.
Once a Lib Dem stronghold, in recent years Castle has been dominated politically by the Castle Independents, husband-and-wife team John Hipkin and Marie-Louise Holland. John is a Cambridge political veteran; he was first elected in 1979, became Mayor of Cambridge in 2005, and celebrates his 82nd birthday this month. Although the new Castle seat contains only about two-thirds of the old seat, with fair-sized chunks of the former Arbury and West Chesterton seats thrown in, John is still likely to be the front-runner for this year’s contest. Labour came second last year in the old Castle seat; their candidate Claire Richards lives across the city in Abbey ward. Paul Sagar, a Junior Research Fellow in Politics and International Relations at King’s College is standing for the Lib Dems; Gareth Bailey, another newcomer, for the Greens; and regular also-ran Edward MacNaghten for the Conservatives.
Once again Cherry Hinton promises one of the least exciting electoral contests in Cambridge – indeed it hasn’t been even slightly exciting since 2010. The new seat is 70% from the old Cherry Hinton and 30% from Coleridge, but both are strong Labour areas, and Labour will be feeling confident of winning on the new boundaries. Their candidate is the incumbent Cherry Hinton County Councillor Sandra Crawford, who faces second-time Green candidate Maximilian Fries, and newcomers James Mathieson for the Conservatives and John Oakes for the Lib Dems.
The new Chesterton seat takes in slightly more of the old East Chesterton than West, and will provide one of the more unpredictable Lib Dem/Labour battlegrounds this year. The Lib Dem candidate is East Chesterton incumbent Ian Manning, who faces Kelley Green for Labour. Ian was first elected in 2010 and has been an active and well-known councillor; Kelley has worked on new public spaces and urban regeneration for councils in Cambridgeshire and East London, and now runs Cambridge Farmers Outlet in Lensfield Road. Both are effective campaigners with strong party organisations behind them, and it’s hard to know which one will emerge victorious. The other candidates for Chesterton are regular UKIP candidate Peter Burkinshaw, whose combative responses to the Cycling Campaign questionnaire I have enjoyed in previous years; Connor Macdonald, who lives in Harston, for the Conservatives; and Stephen Lawrence for the Greens, who has made 19 previous appearances on Cambridge ballot papers, all unsuccessful. I don’t think he’s going to win this year either.
The new King’s Hedges takes in a good-sized chunk of the old East Chesterton with a flavouring of West, as well as retaining nearly all its previous electorate. Lib Dem candidate Jamie Dalzell has been actively campaigning, but given recent electoral history Labour newcomer Elisa Meschini is favourite to take the seat. The other candidates have all stood previously in King’s Hedges: Angela Ditchfield for the Greens, Conservative Anette Karimi, and Dave Corn for UKIP – one of only two UKIP candidates in Cambridge this year.
In recent years Market has been a three-way Lib Dem/Labour/Green marginal, with the Greens managing to snatch the seat by just seven votes in 2015, but fading somewhat last year. The new Market boundaries retain all of the old Market division and add a good slice of the former Castle division as well, but it’s hard to predict what effect this will have on the delicate political balance of the seat. It is once again the top Green target in the city, with Jeremy Caddick, Dean and Chaplain of Emmanuel College, as their candidate. The former Lib Dem County Councillor for Market, Ed Cearns, is standing down, with transport campaigner Nichola Harrison seeking to return to the County Council for the Lib Dems. Labour’s candidate is Nick Gay, who came second in Trumpington last year, while Henry Mitson, an undergraduate at Caius College, is standing for the Conservatives. A close result seems likely.
Newnham is changed relatively little by the new boundaries, retaining all its former voters, and with just 10% of the new electorate coming in from the old Castle division. So I will risk re-using the graph of previous results:
This shows the pattern of recent years, with a once-safe Lib Dem seat still managing to hold off an increased challenge from Labour. I expect the new seat will follow a similar pattern this year, with Lib Dem group leader Lucy Nethsingha likely to retain her seat – though of course nothing is certain in politics, particularly these days. Her Labour challenger is Joe Dale, who is studying for an MPhil in Planning, Growth and Regeneration at Clare Hall. Julius Carrington returns for a second year as Conservative candidate, as does Mark Slade for the Greens.
On the new boundaries, Petersfield gains a large swathe of territory from the former Trumpington district, marked MAJ on the map below. This takes in the Newtown area and extends south to the University Press building by the railway line and west to the river by Fen Causeway.
It’s hard to know what effect this will have politically – it might make the ward slightly less safe for Labour, but probably without doing too much to dent the large majority that the party has enjoyed in recent elections. With Labour’s Petersfield incumbent and group leader Ashley Walsh standing down, Labour’s candidate is Linda Jones, a Professor of Public Health. Emma Bates, a Gwydir Street resident, is standing for the Lib Dems, Virgil Ierubino, last year’s Coleridge candidate, for the Green Party, and Linda Yeatman for the Conservatives.
Queen Edith’s is the nearest thing the Lib Dems have to a safe seat in Cambridge, but in these post-Coalition days it certainly isn’t entirely safe. The new boundaries don’t help the yellow team either, adding a chunk of the dismembered Coleridge division as well as a slice of Cherry Hinton, two Labour seats on the old boundaries. Lib Dem Amanda Taylor, first elected in 1994, will be hoping to win a seventh term in office as a Cambridge councillor. Labour’s candidate is Adam Pounds, a local composer, conductor, and arranger, who was previously active in the Essex Labour party, though is standing for council in Cambridge for the first time. Joel Chalfen is standing for the Greens for the fifth time in Queen Edith’s, and Manas Deb appears on the ballot for the second time for the Conservatives. Here is local resident Chris Rand’s view of the election – always worth reading – which also gives details of a Queen Edith’s hustings event on Thursday 20 April.
Once a Lib Dem stronghold, Romsey is now firmly in the grip of Labour’s formidable local campaign team, which has now won all the council seats. The boundary changes bring in a large section of the old Coleridge division, which will probably only help Labour further. With Romsey incumbent Zoe Moghadas standing down, Coleridge’s sitting County Councillor, Noel Kavanagh is this year’s Labour candidate, and will be hoping to continue Labour’s recent record of success in the area. The Lib Dem candidate is Simon Cooper, a software engineer who has previously stood for election on Coleridge. Caitlin Patterson, an NHS Staff Nurse, is standing for the Greens, and the Conservative candidate is Simon Lee, a former soldier and co-founder of a PTSD charity. Once again there is no Cambridge Socialist candidate this year, another factor which can only help Labour.
As noted above, the new Trumpington seat loses a large chunk of territory to Petersfield, but it also gains some from Queen Edith’s. The Lib Dem candidate is Donald Adey, who already holds a Trumpington City Council seat, with the Lib Dem County Council incumbent Barbara Ashwood standing down. The Conservative candidate Shapour Meftah was previously Trumpington City Councillor, but lost his seat to Donald Adey last year, finishing only third. Newcomer Katie Thornburrow, an architect, has been campaigning actively for Labour, and regular Green candidate Ceri Galloway is making a 15th attempt to win office. A Lib Dem win seems most likely, though not entirely certain.
In Cambridge, then, Labour will be feeling confident in six of the twelve new seats: Abbey, Arbury, Cherry Hinton, King’s Hedges, Romsey and Petersfield. The Lib Dems will be hopeful in Newnham, Queen Edith’s and Trumpington, and Independent John Hipkin is front-runner in Castle. The main battleground seats this year are Chesterton, a Labour/Lib Dem marginal, and Market, a three-way contest also involving the Greens. Despite flying high in the national polls, there’s not much sign of a Conservative revival in Cambridge, and the two UKIP candidates are unlikely to trouble the scorers very much either. However, the simultaneous mayoral contest will mean that the parties will focus less intensely than usual on the battleground seats, as they need to gather votes more widely for their mayoral candidate – a similar phenomenon to General Election years.
As usual, things are a bit different in the rest of Cambridgeshire. In 2013, UKIP unexpectedly took a swathe of seats in the north of the county, depriving the Conservatives of overall control. Many of their candidates had done little more than sign their nomination papers, and were somewhat surprised to find themselves elected. It is widely expected that the Conservatives will regain a number of these seats this year. Conversely, at the last County elections the Lib Dems were experiencing some of the worst of their Coalition unpopularity, and are hoping to make a comeback in a number of areas this time. Whether this will be enough to prevent the Conservatives regaining overall control remains to be seen. Labour will probably struggle to win seats outside Cambridge itself, and the best hope for the Greens is Market division in the city. As well as John Hipkin in Castle, a number of independent candidates also have good hopes of being elected. We’ll know the full picture in just over two weeks, but the County will be living with the consequences of these elections for the next four years.