Cambridge has been a Conservative-free city since Labour’s victory in the Coleridge by election in 2010 denied the Conservatives their last remaining seat in the council. The authority is dominated by the ruling Liberal Democrats, who have 25 of the 42 seats, and Labour, with 14. The Greens and a solitary independent make up the remainder of the council.
Of the ten councils we are profiling Cambridge is the only one that represents a straight fight between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Given the national unpopularity of the junior partners in the Coalition, Labour should be confident of a good set of results in May. Despite that don’t expect Labour to record a gain here: in addition to holding the four seats we are defending, we need an additional eight seats to take outright control. Most likely here is Labour gaining East Chesterton, King’s Hedges and Romsey – seats that all recorded Labour gains from the Lib Dems in last year’s city council elections. Labour's prospects have been boosted by the defection of two leading Liberal Democrats in recent weeks.
Despite the electoral challenge facing Labour if it is to take outright control, the party is clearly serious in its intentions as its local manifesto - A Fairer, Safer, Cleaner, Greener and more Prosperous Cambridge - confirms.
Cambridge is another southern council with a small Green group – in this case, two councillors in Abbey ward. The ward elected a Labour councillor in 2011 and it will be interesting to see whether Labour’s Richard Johnson can snatch a seat back from the Greens in a ward that was historically Labour until 2008.
In 1992 Cambridge elected its first Labour MP since 1966 when Anne Campbell took the seat from the Conservatives . She polled over 50% in the landslide of 1997 and held it with a reduced majority in 2001, but was comprehensively defeated in 2005 on a 15% swing to the Liberal Democrats. In this university city, Iraq and tuition fees took their toll on the party. Labour’s parliamentary fortunes worsened in 2010 when Daniel Zeichner was pushed into third place with just 24%.
An improvement in Labour’s parliamentary fortunes in the city is reliant on winning back progressive voters to its banner. How well placed the party is to do this will be evident in the results next month.