Well, there’s a title I wasn’t expecting to be writing this morning. Following Theresa May’s surprise announcement, here’s a very quick look at the initial prospects for the Cambridge seat on June 8th. Firstly, here’s a reminder of the result in 2015:
Daniel Zeichner edged Julian Huppert out by just 599 votes in 2015, following a knife-edge campaign. Both will be re-standing this time, their third battle for the Cambridge seat in a series that currently stands at one victory each. The Green Party have also selected their candidate, Stuart Tuckwood, an NHS nurse and community activist who came third in the contest for Market ward in last year’s City Council elections. As far as I know neither the Conservatives nor UKIP have a candidate in place, though no doubt emergency selection processes are whizzing into action even as I type. However, realistically, Cambridge is going to be a two-way contest between Huppert and Zeichner.
I’ve heard a number of suggestions today that Julian can expect to regain Cambridge reasonably easily, given the closeness result last time, the current state of the Labour Party, and Cambridge’s heavy Remain vote, which aligns with Lib Dem policy. However, I really don’t think this is the case – I’m expecting another close contest. Despite Labour’s problems nationally, the Cambridge Labour Party remains a well-run and effective campaigning organisation, and has several times as many members in the city as the Lib Dems do – numbers fluctuate, but I believe it’s somewhere between three and five times as many. It’s hard to know exactly what effect the Brexit factor will have, given Daniel Zeichner’s pro-Remain stance. There’s also the consideration that, five weeks before the General Election polling day, Labour is likely to win more seats than the Lib Dems in the local elections on May 4th – this is less certain than it was yesterday, but still probable. Labour also has the benefit of incumbency, an advantage the Lib Dems have lost since 2015. On the other hand, the Labour student organisation is probably going to be a bit less of a factor than last time, as the campaign falls right in the middle of exam season, and there probably won’t be a Cambridge seat opinion poll from Lord Ashcroft showing Julian with a clear lead – or if there is, people will pay less attention to it. [Update: please bear in mind I’m a Lib Dem member]
In any case, it’s going to be a fascinating – and exhausting – seven-and-a-bit weeks.