This Thursday, I hope that all of you reading this will be going down to St John’s on Hills Road or St James on Wulfstan Way to cast your votes. There are two elections taking place, one for the local council and one for the county-wide Police & Crime Commissioner, and I thought I’d preview them both here.
Cambridge City Councillor election
This has been widely discussed and publicised this year, and I suspect there’s yet more election literature still to drop through our letterboxes. Historical party voting patterns in the area indicate that Jennifer Page-Croft for the Liberal Democrats remains the candidate to beat. The Lib Dems have won all but one of the elections here for the past 20 years, but their vote share has been falling in a relatively straight line throughout that time, and last year hit its lowest point since 1991.
Despite the Lib Dems’ usual “can’t win here” claims about other parties in their literature, both John Beresford for Labour and Manas Deb for the Conservatives do have a chance. If the Lib Dem vote continues to fall, I estimate that it would take just 200 voters switching to the other three parties equally to give us a three-way tie.
Although the strong performance of Joel Chalfen for the Green Party at the hustings event should help to at least maintain his party’s vote share, there’s also a question of where the 200 residents who voted for UKIP last May will go, without a candidate this time.
I genuinely think the result will be interesting, and even if it’s not an upset, it will certainly be closer than many people think.
If you still remain to be convinced, take a look at the two-minute opening speeches from each of the candidates at the recent hustings event, filmed by local blogger Antony Carpen, or watch one of the longer questions (above). These will give you a really good idea of what the candidates are like, and how they’re thinking.
Police & Crime Commissioner election
This is a strange one. It’s received so little publicity that you might almost imagine that the political establishment didn’t really want people to vote in it. They’ve spent £9,000,000 of our money sending us a booklet putting the case for just one side of the EU Referendum, so what about the Police & Crime Commissioner election? £5,000,000? £1,000,000? In fact, the Home Office is spending £2,700 on promoting the election. That’s correct: £2,700. Nationwide.
As a consequence, many people will just vote for the Police & Crime Commissioner candidate being pushed forward by their preferred political party. Not that the job is much to do with party politics. So does that mean Cambridgeshire will just sleepwalk into electing the candidate from the party which gets the most councillors and MPs? It did last time, after all.
In the only Police & Crime Commissioner election to date, in 2012, the Conservative candidate, Sir Graham Bright, received 27% of the vote, compared to runner-up Ed Murphy (Labour), who got 20%. But there are a number of reasons why things could be more interesting this time around.
1. The Conservatives seem very complacent. One prominent local Conservative Party figure seemed quite shocked when I even suggested that the election might be closer this year. I’ve certainly seen a lot more campaigning from Labour.
2. UKIP came third in 2012, and may have put forward an even stronger candidate this time. While these things are never certain, it’s likely that UKIP will take more votes from the Conservatives than from other parties.
3. Many more people will vote when they have a council election to vote in too, as we do here in Cambridge. Why is this important? Two of the six council areas within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough don’t have council elections this year. In East Cambs and Fenland, there is only the Police & Crime Commissioner election, so the turnout will probably be low. And these two are among the most strongly Conservative-voting electorates around. In the other four council areas, where the vote is more evenly spread between parties, the simultaneous council elections mean there’s likely to be up to twice the turnout from voters.
4. The current – Conservative – Police & Crime Commissioner has not been popular, I think it’s fair to say. Local blogger Richard Taylor has been gleefully taking Sir Graham Bright to task for the last four years, and the local press have picked up on many of his stories. Richard has pointed out, for example, that from the start, his office cost more than the old Police Authority.
5. The Labour candidate, likely to be the Conservatives’ main opponent, is a strong one. According to his biography, in addition to being the son of a police officer, he was a firefighter for over 30 years and more recently gained a PhD on Uniformed Public Service Cultures.
6. The Labour candidate has already announced who his deputy would be, and it’s a clever choice. Ansar Ali from Peterborough stood as an independent candidate in 2012 and received a very impressive 14% of the vote.
Taking all this into account, it does seem likely that the Labour candidate could easily challenge the Conservative candidate. Then throw into the mix the fact that last time, there were seven candidates, but this time we have just four – and the three parties/independents not standing this time got more votes between them than the eventual winner. That’s a lot of votes to redistribute. The result is far from a foregone conclusion.
Here then, are the names which will be on your ballot paper:
Jason Ablewhite (Conservative Party)
Dave Baigent (Labour Party)
Nick Clarke (UKIP)
Rupert Moss-Eccardt (Liberal Democrats)
There’s an online guide with statements from the candidates, and you can read it by clicking on the cover below. Apparently it’s printed on recycled paper, but I haven’t seen a printed copy anywhere.
The guide contains links to the candidates’ websites or other online statements, so there should be enough to be getting on with. Alternatively, you can see and hear them briefly on this 2-minute video clip by local blogger Antony Carpen…
…or if you want something a little more substantial, try this:
Remember that the PCC Election uses the supplementary voting system, where you vote for your first and second choice of candidate. This largely gets rid of the need to vote tactically if you think there are likely to be two contenders but neither of them is your preferred candidate. In that case, vote 1 for your preferred candidate, and 2 for your choice of the two who are likely to be the two contenders.
Best of luck in making the right choice. It is important.
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