Predictions for the 2016 Cambridge City Council elections

Summary

Because it’s too easy to sit on the fence

Phil Rodgers made these predictions https://philrodgers.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/the-prospects-for-the-2016-cambridge-city-council-elections/ late last year, but because the final list of candidates is slightly different, I thought I’d have another look.

Have a listen to Chris and Phil on Cambridge 105 with Julian Clover too

http://cambridge105.fm/105-drive-04-05-2016/

“Of the 14 wards I’d say there are 5-6 who will win easily…and only two or three that are genuinely competitive” – Chris said on the radio.

My home ward – who wants the dragon fairy vote?

Coleridge ward in Cambridge seldom goes against form – a safe as houses Labour ward bar the dark days of Gordon Brown’s premiership in 2008 when Chris Howell stole in to grab the seat from Tariq Sadiq who was standing for Labour. With Labour being the only party making an effort this time with new candidate Rosy Moore, this should be a safe win for Rosy. The only candidate who has gone beyond paper candidacy is Virgil Ierubino of The Greens, who has at least filled in the election surveys from the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and Smarter Cambridge Transport, and took part in an introduction video. Non-campaigning candidates Bill Kaminski for UKIP and Sam Barker for the Conservatives are on the ballot paper. Surprisingly Simon Cooper for the Liberal Democrats is not – replaced by Raymundo Carlos of whom I can’t find anything about online!

Changing the basic conventions

Although Virgil has spent most of his time in Market Ward campaigning for Stuart Tuckwood in the Greens’ target seat, The Greens have been conspicuous in running a high profile social media campaign for a number of their candidates. With good reason – they don’t have the activist numbers, finances or resources to leaflet the city in the way that Labour do. That said, despite reasonably high membership numbers, the conversion rate of members to activists remains (for me at least), far too low.

What I’ve worked for in this campaign is to change the basic conventions in the way I unsuccessfully tried with Puffles in the 2014 elections. As it turned out, I was just a little ahead of our time with Puffles. Whereas Puffles was a 2-3 person show, what’s happened at this election in Cambridge is that a number of other people have also worked to change the basic conventions too – think of those that organised the hustings for example. Furthermore, the large number of first-time candidates willing to try new campaigning methods outside of tried and tested methods meant that we got a critical mass of candidates using for example video.

Setting new online standards:

In Cambridge we have seen:

Websites

Facebook pages

Twitter accounts

(Though note for Facebook & Twitter there is a growing practice for ward-based social media accounts as well as personal accounts)

and… videos too.

We’ve not seen as much blogging as I’d have expected – this has been more prevalent in the PCC elections with both Dave Baigent and Nick Clarke blogging away.

The properly contested wards traditionally are the central wards:

  • Castle
  • The Chestertons (East, and West)
  • Market
  • Petersfield
  • Romsey

Traditionally ‘safe’ wards tend to be in the north west or south & east of the city.

  • Abbey
  • Arbury
  • Cherry Hinton
  • Coleridge
  • King’s Hedges
  • Newnham
  • Queen Edith’s
  • Trumpington

The one thing it’s worth reminding ourselves at this time is the echo chamber that is our local political social media bubble – something that every so often goes ‘pop!’ when I find myself in a room full of people who are perhaps taking part in a community event for the first time.

So: My predictions

  • Castle – John Hipkin (Ind)
  • Chesterton, East – Shahida Rahman (Lib Dems)
  • Chesterton, West – Nichola Harrison (Lib Dems)
  • Market – Stuart Tuckwood (Greens)
  • Petersfield – Richard Robertson (Labour)
  • Romsey – Sophie Barnett (Labour)

As a distant observer for the top three, my take is that John will be hard to shift in Castle, while the City Deal has put Labour on the defensive in Chesterton, something that the Liberal Democrats have capitalised on with aggressive leaflet campaigns in the wards. That combined with the sheer barrage of negative media publicity at a national level could be enough to tip both the Chestertons towards the Liberal Democrats.

The Greens have campaigned the living daylights out of Market, and this one could be just as close as last year, with a couple of dozen votes between the top three. Don’t think that Labour and the Liberal Democrats have sat back in the face of the Greens – the ward has a huge number of Labour and Liberal Democrat boards up, so it could easily go for Dani Green for Labour, or Tim Bick could hold on for the Liberal Democrats. As the current leader of the opposition on Cambridge City Council, the Liberal Democrats need Tim to hold onto this seat to help stabilise the party in the council chamber.

Six-seven years ago, Petersfield was a Liberal/Labour battleground. Then post-2010 both the Greens & the Liberal Democrats collapsed, giving Labour a free rein. Things have turned around in recent years, but the gap between Labour and the rest is still large. That said, new candidate Sharon Kaur has brought to bear a small but active group of friends to campaign in the ward to build on the work that Atus and Matt in previous years had achieved to re-establish the Green presence.

The safe wards?

The return of active Conservative candidates in both Newnham and Queen Edith’s marks the start of the ‘Heidi’ factor – South Cambridgeshire’s personable and media-friendly MP for the Conservatives who is spending more time close to & in Cambridge than her predecessor. (Declaration – Heidi bought me dinner post-Queen Edith’s hustings last month). While it may be too much to ask Julius Carrington and Manas Deb to win their respective wards, the fact they have appeared at public hustings as well as doing leafletting and having an active online presence shows that the Conservatives are back. But again, the problem they have is a lack of activists on the ground compared to their opponents.

For Arbury, Abbey and King’s Hedges wards it’s difficult to see these going any other way than Labour, though in recent years both The Greens and the Liberal Democrats have managed to win elections in the first two wards. From my vantage point it’s difficult to get a feel for what the issues are in Arbury and King’s Hedges. Interestingly, the Labour candidates don’t have a huge social media presence, while some of their opponents do. That said, I don’t think we’re at the stage where social media is that huge game-changer. It can however be useful in helping establish a new candidate inside the world of local democracy in Cambridge, as a number have done.

Cherry Hinton – the somewhat forgotten village at the eastern end of the city has had zero interest from the other parties and the media. With the Mayor Rob Dryden restanding, there is only so much he can do publicly campaigning. The village is somewhat of a Labour fiefdom these days – the last Conservative councillor being Eric Barrett Payton in 2006 who has returned to stand for election this time around.

Trumpington remains an interesting one simply because of the housing and population growth. The candidates haven’t had the highest media profile as with Cherry Hinton (bar the Mayor), so it remains to be seen if this ward sticks to party form and votes for Donald Adey for the Liberal Democrats. Donald stood in Romsey last year and against Puffles in Coleridge ward, losing 89 votes to Cambridge’s favourite dragon fairy.

“Should I take these predictions too seriously?”

No. Please don’t. It’s a bit of fun. Think of it as the political wonk’s version of predicting the football results on a Saturday. The real analysis happens when the results are in – analysing the news, rather than trying to seriously analyse what in the grand scheme of things is speculation. That’s why I get sick of the mainstream news reporting about speculation (eg leadership challenges that seldom happen) than on stuff that has happened.

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