By-election in Queen Ediths ward, Cambridge – reporting but not standing


Why I’m hoping to play a somewhat different role in this local political contest

A number of people from across my neighbourhood invited me to stand as an independent in the looming by-election. Other than not being in the greatest of health, there has been a fair amount of (unexpected) progress on the issues I would have campaigned about had I stood. This, combined with the likelihood the seat will be genuinely contested means that there is a better way of securing my main priorities – increasing voter turnout and political engagement with local residents.

A genuine contest?

Unlike when I stood in Coleridge as Puffles earlier this year, Queen Edith’s is traditionally a Lib Dem seat that Labour made big inroads into – ultimately taking one of the seats in the 2012 local council elections. As it is the Labour seat that is up for election, this by-election could be an interesting weather vane for the 2015 campaign – despite being the only ward in the city boundary outside the constituency (it’s in South Cambridgeshire).

Labour need to have a strong showing if they are to demonstrate they are on track to take Cambridge City in the 2015 general election. In a place like Cambridge, all parties need to demonstrate they can reach out beyond their solid and sizeable core votes. If Labour can hold Queen Edith’s, it’ll be a positive sign for them for 2015.

The Liberal Democrats will want to retake this seat to show they are resilient to Labour’s campaigning in Cambridge, and also to show they have a chance in the otherwise safe Conservative constituency of South Cambridgeshire.

The Conservatives will want to demonstrate they can break out of their Trumpington ward heartland and expand back into a city where they once had a sizeable presence on the council. Queen Edith’s, which neighbours Trumpington (where the peer Jean Baker – Baroness Trumpington gets her title from) is in principle a seat where the Conservatives should have a strong presence. It has a number of neighbourhoods with large, expensive homes and is on the edge of town. These parts of the ward have a very different feel to say Mill Road in Romsey and Petersfield wards.

The Greens while not having traditionally targeted this ward in the past, may want to use it as an opportunity to encourage new or dormant supporters to get involved with a growing city branch.

UKIP have traditionally not stood candidates in this ward, so if they do it will be interesting to see what impact the national media amplification has had on their prospects here – as well as who they might take votes off of.

The candidates so far:

  • Viki Sanders for the Liberal Democrats
  • Rahima Ahammed for Labour
  • Andy Bower for the Conservatives

All of the above make for interesting reading – and for a properly contested by-election. (Hence why I feel less bad about not standing). One of the things I pestered Labour over was getting more women to stand as candidates in local council elections. Now that they have found a new face to stand in the ward, and who has lived locally, it feels like bad form to stand against that candidate.

Labour candidate Rahima Ahammed with Ed Miliband outside the Cancer Research labs by Addenbrookes. Pic Cllr Dave Baigent via Twitter
Labour candidate Rahima Ahammed with Ed Miliband outside the Cancer Research labs by Addenbrookes. Pic Cllr Dave Baigent via Twitter

Viki Sanders – a nurse at Addenbrookes and a former ward councillor is returning after a break from local politics to stand again for the Liberal Democrats. Having two women contesting this ward for Labour and the Liberal Democrats is positive in that it increases the chances of helping the gender balance on the council. When I was at the Cambridgeshire County Council full council earlier, the lack of diversity in the cohort of councillors was noticeable.

Andy Bower is running for the Conservatives – and is first out of the blocks with a social media presence. Me and Andy are from completely different parts of the political matrix – he’s in the libertarian conservative bit of it. Some of you may have seen our Twitter exchanges! As Conservatives go, he’s a very serious candidate and if elected would be a very good and hard-working ward councillor.

My role?

The two things I want to do for this by-election are:

  • Organise a couple of local hustings – one on each side of the ward
  • Make some short digital videos of the candidates

It’s going to be mid-November when the voting takes place. What can we do between now and then to persuade local people to find out about who is standing, try a few new things out and perhaps lay some of the institutional groundwork around hustings for the 2015 elections?




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