Could Labour’s Daniel Zeichner be more radical about transport for Cambridge?


Some thoughts on the transport announcement from Cambridge Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Daniel Zeichner

His announcement: “Stagecoach Bus Monopoly in Cambridge will be challenged says Labour” is here. Daniel’s quoted as saying the following:

“The last Labour Government gave county councils like Cambridgeshire the chance to set fares and frequency of local bus services, but Conservative-controlled authorities refused to take up the offer.

With a Labour government, a Labour City Council in Cambridge and a Labour MP in Cambridge after the next election, we will be in a strong position to insist that the interests of passengers come first. In particular, a London oyster-style payment system is long-overdue on Cambridge buses to end the long delays getting on buses that so slows down so many services.”

Given Cambridge Labour’s existing policy of a unitary council for Cambridge, I think Daniel could have been both more clear and more radical with his announcement. The headline of the press release doesn’t seem to match the quotation. The first paragraph of the quotation needed to be specific to Cambridgeshire County Council under its previous political control. The second paragraph then slightly muddies the water between Tory-dominated Cambridgeshire County Council and the current Labour-controlled Cambridge City Council. In the minds of most residents, they don’t differentiate between city and county councils. It’s ‘the council’.

A much stronger line would have been along the lines of:

  • “The current setup of having Cambridge transport and schools being overseen by [insert name of opposition party] councillors as far away as [insert name of county town far away from Cambridge] is stifling Cambridge. We need a single council responsible for all local public services in Cambridge. A Labour government will deliver this.”
  • “Under a single council for Cambridge, Labour will deliver X, Y & Z for buses in Cambridge.”
  • “We will also campaign for improved [rail] transport links to Haverhill/Wisbech/Ipswich/Norwich to help reduce pressure on housing and ensure the economic success of Cambridge is shared with other parts of East Anglia.” 

On the last point, having the above would help his fellow candidates standing in those towns as it would demonstrate joined-up thinking across the party, and that those areas are not being forgotten about in the push for a single council for Cambridge.

As a member of Labour’s transport commission, it would have been interesting to see more of how he is influencing the decisions taken by that commission. Otherwise he runs the risk of being seen to be reacting to national policy announcements rather than being a key influencer of them.

“The challenge for all of the parliamentary candidates in Cambridge?”

Other than ‘getting elected’?

For me it’s having answers to the following questions:

  1. What is your future vision for Cambridge?
  2. What primary legislation in Parliament is needed to help us achieve that vision?
  3. How can you demonstrate that, if elected you will secure that necessary legislation in 2) to achieve 1)?

Given the nature of Daniel’s campaign, this might be demonstrated by a visiting shadow cabinet minister committing to tabling the necessary legislation for a given policy in a future Labour government – and that shadow minister crediting Daniel with having achieved that policy change.

With Julian, now’s the time for him to start talking about what a second 5 year term as our MP would be like. He’s also got his own record to defend. What does he think are his biggest achievements as an MP? What are his biggest disappointments? What difference will we notice after another 5 years of him as our MP?

For Chamali Fernando, who is standing for the Conservatives, she got the backing for former Prime Minister Sir John Major earlier – see here. (Though I’m sure Phil Rodgers will want to take issue with Major’s assessment – see Phil’s prediction here for the local elections in 2015). At the moment, her priorities are too nationally-oriented – see here. Are there any specifics – in particular on the back of recent campaigning in Queen Edith’s for the 13 November by-election?

Beyond the big three Westminster parties, in Cambridge both The Green Party and UKIP are standing experienced candidates in Dr Rupert Read and Patrick O’Flynn MEP. There is now a very active Cambridge Young Greens movement in the city as the party nationally explicitly targets the student and young people vote – see here. Being a short train ride away from where she lives in London, expect even more frequent visits from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. While it might be the Liberal Democrats who might be seen to be the target, policy-wise The Green Party are pitching themselves to the left of Labour – deliberately so. They are also encouraging their younger members to join trade unions – see here. UKIP too are targeting otherwise safe Labour wards – see here. They were in Coleridge recently and stated that they want to target Cherry Hinton next.

The challenge for Cambridge Labour is how to hold off political opponents from completely different parts of the political matrix.



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