One of the most frustrating aspects of campaigning over the last couple of weeks is dealing with Lib Dem FUD* about the relative strengths of the different parties in Cambridge. According to every single piece of Lib Dem literature (and they’ve been playing the same message over and over again), the Conservatives “can’t win” in Cambridge, citing our share of the general vote in 2005.
This just isn’t true!
The Conservative share of the local vote has rocketed since 2005 and was over 26% for the last two years in which there have been local council elections. In terms of votes cast, the Conservatives are now the second largest grouping in the city. Official data published on the Cambridge City Council website show that the Conservative vote grew by more than 4% from 2006 to 2009, while the biggest losers over the same period are the Lib Dems who have lost over 4%.
Of course when it comes to national elections, voting patterns can change completely. We all have doorstep experiences of voters who will claim to vote one way for the national elections and another for the local elections. In Cambridge, however, we have yet another factor to contend with: The student vote.
There are some 13 colleges in Newnham accounting for around 3,200 registered voters which is a significant share of the total electorate in the ward. In previous years this has tended to influence both the constituency vote and local ward votes considerably (exacerbated by the fact that many Lib Dem candidates, nationally and locally, are academics or university employees).
2010 seems to be different, however. A Student Politics 2010 poll among 539 final-year students (22.6%) found that 26 per cent intended to vote Conservative, one of the highest figures for a generation.
This comes hot on the heels of a Cambridge News poll in January which put the Conservatives in the lead among voters working in the city with 31% of the vote.
So the message has to be that the 2010 local and general elections are truly open. The Green vote is enormously significant, not only because it has potential to knock Labour into fourth place when the final count is made, but also because it will tend to cannibalise votes predominantly from the Lib Dems.
As Conservatives, we have all to play for!
* FUD = Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt