With less than 48 hours left until the polls close on Thursday in the City Council elections, here are my predictions for how things will turn out this year. In recent years, while I was actively involved in electioneering, I delayed publishing my predictions until the polls had actually closed – it seemed a little rude to tell some of my campaigning comrades that I thought their efforts were doomed before polling day had even started. However, now that I’m an ex-Lib-Dem once again, I have no such compunction, so you’re getting them a bit earlier this year.
But first, here’s a look back at how my predictions have turned out for the last few years. As you’ll see, I’ve never quite managed to get every seat right, and there are some consistent patterns – the Chesterton wards have been particularly tricky. Here’s how things turned out in 2014, the last time that the seats up this year were contested:
I only got 11 of the 14 right that year – I got East and West Chesterton the wrong way round on knife-edge results (10 and 19 vote majorities respectively), and Labour’s Dave Baigent managed to take Romsey by a relatively comfortable 112-vote majority from the Lib Dems.
In 2015 I was agonisingly close to a perfect score:
Only the Green victory over Labour by just seven votes in Market ward kept me from a 100% result. In 2016 I came close again, when I only got West Chesterton wrong:
Mike Sargeant finally reaped the rewards of several years hard campaigning in West Chesterton, seeing off Lib Dem Nichola Harrison by 260 votes. Last year, with 12 County Council seats up for election, things went backward slightly as I got two wrong:
Once again Chesterton proved troublesome, where Lib Dem Ian Manning overturned my prediction of a Labour win, and John Hipkin narrowly failed to hang on in Castle following boundary changes.
So what are my predictions for this year? As ever, let’s do the easy ones first.
- Arbury: Labour hold
- Cherry Hinton: Labour hold
- Coleridge: Labour hold
- King’s Hedges: Labour hold
- Petersfield: Labour hold
- Romsey: Labour hold
These are all pretty safe Labour seats now, even though four of them have had Lib Dem councillors in recent years. I’m expecting comfortable Labour wins in each of these.
- Newnham: Lib Dem hold
- Queen Edith’s: Lib Dem hold
- Trumpington: Lib Dem hold
I’m less certain about these three, but I think the Lib Dems should hold on in each of them. Labour is now the main challenger in all three; despite some active campaigning, the Conservatives are no longer the force they once were in Queen Edith’s and Trumpington.
That leaves the five “battleground” wards: Abbey, Castle, Market and the two Chestertons.
- Abbey: Labour hold. Labour had a scare last year, with the Lib Dem challenge coming within 75 votes of victory, but I think they’ve put in enough effort this year to hold on.
- Castle: Lib Dem gain from Independent. With no Independent candidate defending the seat, Castle is especially unpredictable this time. Labour have put in a lot of work, and are certainly in with a good chance, having won the County seat last year, but I think lower turnout this year could favour the Lib Dems.
- Market: Lib Dem gain from Labour. Relatively high resident turnover means incumbency is less of an advantage than it might be, and a Lib Dem win last year (though on the larger County boundaries) suggests that Market is a reasonable prospect for a gain.
- East Chesterton: I’m expecting Labour to hold both seats, though not by much, and a split result certainly isn’t impossible.
- West Chesterton: Labour gain from Lib Dem. I think Labour’s consistent effort in the ward in recent years is likely to be enough to give them the gain.
If all my predictions are correct, the the Lib Dems will gain two but lose one, and Labour will gain one and lose one. The Independents are certain to lose one in any case. This would make the new council Labour 26, Lib Dems 14, Green 1 and Independent 1 – the Labour majority remaining at ten. However, many of the wards are very uncertain, and this could easily be my wrongest year yet.
I’ll be at the Guildhall from 10pm on Thursday as the votes are counted, so follow me on Twitter for live coverage.