With only a few days of this cold, dark, and fairly damp General Election campaign left to go, this article is my best guess at what results are likely to be declared at the Cambridge Guildhall in the early hours of Friday 13th December. And while past performance isn’t necessarily a reliable guide to future results, I think it’s worth taking a look back at how my predictions fared in the last couple of General Elections. Here’s how I thought 2015 would turn out:
and here’s how it actually did turn out:As expected, it was a pretty close-run thing, though instead of Julian Huppert just holding off the Labour challenge, Daniel Zeichner narrowly won by 599 votes. The Conservatives also did noticeably worse than I thought they would, recording their lowest-ever General Election vote share in Cambridge.
Here’s how I thought things would turn out in 2017:
and here’s the actual result:
While I did manage to get all the candidates in the right order, like a lot of people I wasn’t expecting quite such an emphatic Labour win in Cambridge. In terms of votes, Labour increased their total by 10,386 from 2015, while the Lib Dem vote only fell by 1,676 – suggesting that the result was due in large part to Labour persuading people who hadn’t voted in 2015 to turn out for Daniel. The Green vote was also down substantially, with the Jeremy Corbyn factor clearly at work.
Now that you’ve got some idea of how big a pinch of salt to add to my predictions, on to this year’s contest. With eight candidates standing this time, I’ll try not to keep you in suspense too long. Here they are in reverse order of how I think they’ll finish.
I’m expecting Independent candidate Miles Hurley to finish in last place, with about 0.2% of the vote – maybe around 120 votes. The last three Independent candidates to stand in Cambridge gained 60, 60, and 145 votes, and I think that’s roughly what Mr Hurley can expect this time. At one hustings event he said, “Some people jump out of aeroplanes for fun – I’m doing this.” I hope he’s enjoyed the experience.
Keith Garrett of Rebooting Democracy has stood twice before in Cambridge, on a platform of deciding national issues with a system of citizen juries. However, this has not found a great deal of favour with Cambridge voters. In 2015 he won 187 votes, dropping to 133 in 2017. Based on this, I think 0.3% of the vote is a reasonable estimate for how he’ll do this time.
The last candidate in Cambridge standing under the SDP label was Shirley Williams in 1987, who finished second with 31% of the vote. I think it’s safe to say that this year’s SDP candidate, Jane Robins, will be well short of this total. In the recent Peterborough by-election, Patrick O’Flynn took 0.4% of the vote for the SDP, narrowly beating the Monster Raving Loony candidate. I think Jane Robins will be looking at a similar total in Cambridge. Let’s be generous and call it 0.5%.
In 2017 the Cambridge Greens must have been disappointed to take only 2.3% of the vote, down from 8% in 2015. While environmental issues are certainly important for Cambridge voters, this hasn’t translated into electoral success for the Green Party, and I’m not expecting much change this time after a fairly perfunctory campaign. Their vote will probably rise a little, but perhaps only to 3%.
Although Peter Dawe is standing for the Brexit Party, the main focus of his election campaign has been to promote various projects that he has been involved with, describing himself as “a superhero, not a politician”. Nevertheless, I think he will attract some votes on the strength of the Brexit Party label – while Cambridge is a strongly Remain constituency, Leave still took 26% of the referendum vote. Overall I think Mr Dawe won’t quite retain his deposit – my prediction is 4%.
In the last two General Elections, the Conservative candidate has won 15.7% and 16.3% of the vote, and I think that’s pretty much what their candidate, Harlow councillor Russell Perrin, can expect this time. Locally, the Conservatives are clearly focusing their efforts in South and South East Cambridgeshire, where they are very much in contention, rather than in Cambridge, where they very much aren’t. So let’s take an average and say 16%.
That’s 24% of the vote accounted for, leaving 76% to divide between the front-runners, Lib Dem Rod Cantrill and Labour’s Daniel Zeichner. It probably won’t be a great surprise to anyone that I’m expecting a Labour hold, though with a reduced majority. There are some factors that point to a better Lib Dem performance than last time, such as the Survation poll putting them in the lead in October, the fact that most Cambridge University students will be away on polling day, and (according to polls) the significantly reduced appeal of Jeremy Corbyn. The colder, darker evenings for canvassing may also have taken the edge off Labour’s advantage in door-knocking activist numbers. Conversely, the lacklustre national Lib Dem campaign, the misjudged Revoke policy, and likely lower name recognition for Rod Cantrill, will act in the other direction. While the Lib Dems have as usual delivered a truly stupendous number of pieces of paper to Cambridge letterboxes, I don’t think it’ll be enough for them to win this time, and my election-predicting seaweed says 42% for Labour and 34% for the Lib Dems. Inevitably, here’s a graph:
I’ll be at the Guildhall on Thursday night and Friday morning to bring you live coverage of all the excitement – the Press Association estimate for the Cambridge declaration time is 3am. If you’re an activist of any party, best wishes for polling day; wrap up warm, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t let the campaign organiser hurry you out of the committee room before you’ve finished your hot drink. And good luck!
Update: It’s always interesting to see responses from party activists to my election predictions, not least because they’ve actually been knocking on Cambridge doors and talking to residents, and so will have a better idea of how it’s going than I do. Most (but not all) responses so far suggest that it’s going to be closer between Labour and the Lib Dems than my prediction indicates. We’ll know soon enough!