2015 Result:
Conservative: 8117 (15.7%)
Labour: 18646 (36%)
Lib Dem: 18047 (34.9%)
Green: 4109 (7.9%)
UKIP: 2668 (5.2%)
Others: 187 (0.4%)
MAJORITY: 599 (1.2%)

Category: Ultra-marginal Labour seat

Geography: Eastern, Cambridgeshire. Most of the Cambridge council area.

Main population centres: Cambridge.

Profile: Covers almost all of the City of Cambridge. While Cambridge is best known for its university, it is also an important regional and retail centre and a home to much hi-tech industry and engineering. Around one in five of the adult population are in full time education and the seat has an well above average proportion of graduates, with just under half of adult residents holding an undergraduate degree.

Politics: All three of the main parties are competitive here, it was held for the Conservatives by the historian Robert Rhodes James until 1992, then was a Labour seat for thirteen years before, like many university seats, swinging strongly to the Liberal Democrats in 2005. The 2005 Lib Dem victor, David Howarth, served for only one term before successfully passing his seat onto Julian Huppert. In 2015 it was regained by Labour.

Current MP
DANIEL ZEICHNER (Labour) Educated at Trinity School and Cambridge University. Former trade union officer. South Norfolk councillor 1995-2003. Contested Mid Norfolk 1997, 2001, 2005, Cambridge 2010. First elected as MP for Cambridge in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 12829 (26%)
Lab: 12174 (24%)
LDem: 19621 (39%)
GRN: 3804 (8%)
Oth: 1702 (3%)
MAJ: 6792 (14%)
Con: 7193 (17%)
Lab: 14813 (34%)
LDem: 19152 (44%)
GRN: 1245 (3%)
Oth: 1166 (3%)
MAJ: 4339 (10%)
Con: 9829 (23%)
Lab: 19316 (45%)
LDem: 10737 (25%)
GRN: 1413 (3%)
Oth: 1541 (4%)
MAJ: 8579 (20%)
Con: 13299 (26%)
Lab: 27436 (53%)
LDem: 8287 (16%)
Oth: 1055 (2%)
MAJ: 14137 (28%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
CHAMALI FERNANDO (Conservative) Barrister. Sought Liberal Democrat nomination for London mayor in 2007 before defecting to the Conservatives in 2009.
DANIEL ZEICHNER (Labour) Educated at Trinity School and Cambridge University. Trade union officer. South Norfolk councillor 1995-2003. Contested Mid Norfolk 1997, 2001, 2005, Cambridge 2010.
JULIAN HUPPERT (Liberal Democrat) Born 1978, Cambridge. Educated at The Perse School and Cambridge University. Research scientist. Cambridgeshire county councillor 2001-2009. Contested Huntingdon 2005. MP for Cambridge 2010 to 2015. One of relatively few scientists in the House of Commons, Huppert has been prominent as a defender of science, evidence-based policies and as an opponent of pseudoscience.
PATRICK O`FLYNN (UKIP) Born 1965, Cambridge. Educated at Cambridge University. Former Daily Express journalist. Contested MEP for Eastern region since 2014.
RUPERT READ (Green) Educated at Oxford University. Academic. Norwich councillor 2004-2011. Contested Eastern region 2009, 2014 European elections, Norwich North 2009 by-election.
KEITH GARRETT (Remove the Politicians)
Comments - 977 Responses on “Cambridge”
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  1. Cambridge is one of the ‘third into first’ Labour targets. Having held the seat from 1992 to 2005, with a strong candidate and well-organised local party, Labour will be expecting to exploit the dissatisfaction among academics and students with the Lib Dems and mount a strong challenge for the seat.

  2. I fancy Huppert to hold on here. He’s been an occasional rebel (importantly, for example, over tuition fees), he is a good fit for the seat in a number of ways, and he certainly appears to be a quite active local MP. I suspect that he could appeal to the kind of middle class anti-Coalition person who is small-l liberal.

    That said, the position of the Lib Dems in Cambridge as the establishment (although they look to lose the council in 2014) might hurt them.

  3. In the 2011 and 2012 local elections Labour led here in the popular vote – I think by about 5-10%.

    Labour would only need to take (back) about 20% of the LibDem vote to take this seat in 2015. In the context of the national movement from Lib Dem to Lab since 2010, it would be an outstanding personal achievement if Huppert did hold on here.

  4. I’m anticipating something closer to a national Lib Dem to Labour swing of maybe 7 or 8%, in which case Huppert should be able to hang on. But if the result in 2015 is anything like the local results in 2011 and 2012, then he’s probably done for.

  5. James E – the lead was considerably larger than that. According to Colin Rosenstiel’s website, in 2011 the lead was 8.9%, and in 2012 it was a mammoth 17.9%.

    Results in the latter year don’t neatly extrapolate towards a general election result, because the low turnout had different effects in different places and because we got huge majorities in a couple of wards due to personal votes, without which the majorities would just have been large.

    That said, Cambridge’s demographics would suggest that the Lib Dem to Labour swing would be greater here than nationally.

  6. I’m convinced Huppert will hold this seat in 2015, possibly with Tory tactical voting.

  7. Agreed. Although there is a (supercilious) dislike towards the Tories in Cambridge, Labour isn’t all that popular either. I can well remember the fury of my fellow students when Mr Darling introduced the 50 p tax rate. I had a wry smile about that.

  8. To clarify I think Huppert will just about hold on.

  9. Cambridge isn’t all students, not by a long way. Given the proportion of undergraduates who were privately educated, you wouldn’t expect a great deal of support for Labour economic policy. The 50p tax rate goes down fine in most of the city – and frankly most of the student body will have no objection either.

    I’m never certain what the real level of Tory support in the city is, because there’s a hefty degree of tactical voting for the Lib Dems. Certainly that padded out Howarth’s 2005 majority and the substantial drop in the Lib Dem vote in 2010 is probably partially explained by a fair number of Conservative supporters no longer fearing a Labour victory and voting their real desire. But it’s difficult to tell because there’s even more of a tactical squeeze on the Tory vote in local elections in most of the city.

    Either way, I don’t think Huppert’s personal vote is as big as people assume. He’s not remembered in the ward he used to be county councillor for, and the issues he grandstands on mostly appeal to convinced Lib Dems and the sort of Mill Road voter who always backs the incumbent anyway.

  10. Are tuition fees still poisonous for the LibDems? My impression is that the popular memory is fading and never had much traction amongst blue collar voters. There are several LD seats where this could be important – Cambridge, Colchester, Welwyn-Hatfield, Manchester Withington, Norwich North, Sheffield Hallam are those that come to mind.

  11. Sorry, not WelHat, although if enough LD temporary support returned to Labour ….

  12. In Oxford there was a fair mix of both Lab LD and Con students. Not really overwhelming any way.

  13. By the 2015 election pretty much all of the students would not have been at university when the fees were announced. It will be forgotten rapidly by the student population.

    Explains why Labour did so well in Oxford East last time round. (That + Iraq anyway)

    I dont think the fees issue will matter all that much.

  14. I don’t think it will matter in itself. But last time people who wouldn’t necessarily have voted LD did so just on the basis of the fees issue. Its unlikely they will go for the LD’s next time

    So it will have an indirect effect as many LD votes will go elsewhere

  15. Fees is important as a shorthand for betrayal, disappointment, etc.

  16. In the 2nd May 2013 council elections here, those wards which make up the Cambridge constituency (that is all bar Queen Ediths) voted:

    Labour 11,534 (40%)
    Lib Dem 9,257 (32%)
    Conservative 3,684 (13%)
    Green 2,541 (9%)
    UKIP 933 (3%) -standing in 5 of 13 wards
    Others 899 (3%)

    One unusual factor here (as pointed out above) is that the Con to LibDem tactical voting, which is normally stronger in local elections than general elections. The Tories have never polled lower than 17% here in a GE, and losses here to UKIP were obviously minimal.

  17. Are you sure about those figures? Colin Rosenstiel’s site has it as follows (which matches my back of the envelope maths from the count):

    Lab 10150 (39.9%)
    Lib Dem 7257 (28.5%)
    Con 3684 (14.5%)
    Green 2298 (9.0%)
    UKIP 933 (3.7%)
    Others 1142 (4.5%)

    I think the Tories have more or less bottomed out here, so there wasn’t much to lose to UKIP. A decent chunk of the city is very stony ground for UKIP and in the rest canvassing operations are good enough that there’s probably slightly less disaffection from local politics than you might find elsewhere.

    That said, where UKIP did have stand they got their best results ever, and I didn’t see any evidence they did any extra work, or indeed any work at all.

  18. Labour polled 11,081 votes across all of the Cambridge divisions. They received 931 votes in Queen Edith’s, so that gives 10,150 for the Cambridge constituency.

    Checked the LD total as well for the constituency: 7,257.

  19. Again, another Labour gain. This is because this is a three-way marginal, Lib Dem swing will help Labour on top of picking up seats from Tories. Also, there is a strong candidate and it is a university seat many voters having voted Lib Dem because of tuition fees.

  20. My apologies – I’ll trust Edward’s figures over my ‘back of an envelope’ calculations from the day the local election results were announced.

    I can’t see Cambridge a really a three-way marginal, despite the Tories taking 2nd place in 2010. However, I’d be surprised if they polled as low as 14.5% in a General Election.

  21. In 2015, why would the electorate on Cambridge or any other University constituency be convinced that Labour would revoke the tuition fees?

  22. I don’t think anyone has suggested here that Labour would revoke tuition fees.

    What is likely to happen in 2015 is that the University vote which sitched from Labour to Lib Dem in 2005 looks likely to return to Labour to some extent.

  23. Yes – many erstwhile Labour voters deserted the party for the LDs, and if the latter have been seen to betray those voters, they are likely to return by and large to Labour even if its promises are modest ones.

  24. One of my pet peeves is when people comment as if students are the most important part of “the university vote”. They are not. The thousands and thousands of university employees are far more important, being older, more firmly rooted in the area and much more likely to vote.

    Students – if they vote at all – often vote in their home constituency and are probably less uniform in leaning to the left than university workers are.

    On the issue of fees, it is possible that some university workers will take a more charitable view of the issue than students do. After all, they understand more than anyone the immense funding challenges that higher education faces.

    Nevertheless Barnaby is right that there will be a big swing back to Labour here. The question is whether it will be enough to come from 3rd place to win. It will be potentially close, but my personal guess is that the Lib Dems may just hold the seat.

  25. H.Hemmelig is spot-on when he points out that what makes up a ‘university constituency’ is not so much the students themselves as the large number of well-paid, very well-educated professionals who are employed by them. That said, enough students voters will inevitably make a constituency more volatile than it would otherwise be – a new set of first time voters every five years.

  26. Yes that’s an excellent comment.

    There will be plenty of well paid professors and lecturers living in big houses in Cambridge and Sheffield Hallam. These kind of people – not the student body – form the bedrock of the Lib Dem support in that kind of seat.

    I don’t think tuition fees will be a particularly salient issue for many of those kinds of people but I suspect the Lib Dems going into coalition with the Tories will be.

  27. These comments about the student vote are true, but not to the same extent in Cambridge as elsewhere – turnout in the general election was fairly uniform across the seat, which it wouldn’t have been if student turnout in general elections was particularly low.

    Similarly, the lowest turnout in Cambridge this year was not in student-heavy Market or Newnham, but in Kings Hedges, which has almost no full-time students. This is partly because the permanent residents of Market and Newnham are a pretty high turnout group, but there are a fair few students who can be relied upon to vote.

  28. As I remember Barnaby is a Cambridge man.

    Perhaps he could answer this question for me:

    Do Cambridge graduates obsess about which particular college they went to as Oxford graduates appear to do ?

    I would hope not as the Oxford lot sound like a bunch of stuckup areseholes.

    Really hoping that AW is not an Oxford man 😉

  29. Being in a more scientific career I have worked with many Cambridge graduates but only a few from Oxford.

    Based on those I have known, Cambridge people tend to be more down to earth and not like the Oxford PPE stereotype you mention above.

    But I’m sure Barnaby or Edward will have a more worthwhile opinion than me.

  30. Well I’m also a Cambridge man as it happens. In my experience, students are not obsessed about their colleges, though perhaps the older ones (like Peterhouse) carry a certain cachet.

  31. Tory is basically right. However I will never admit that Peterhouse has any cachet 🙂 Seriously though, we don’t obsess, though I tend to have more to do with my old college (Kings) than the university as a whole. Surely no-one could really describe the average Cambridge graduate as down-to-earth – though we are just a little less arrogant perhaps than Oxford ones.
    As a left-wing fogey (there are more of us than you might think), I would NEVER use the term “uni”. I would always say university.

  32. ‘As a left-wing fogey (there are more of us than you might think), I would NEVER use the term “uni”. I would always say university.’

    Amen to that (says a right-wing fogey).

  33. I went to Ayr College.

  34. This is certainly one that will be too close to call. Julien Huppert has rebelled against tuition fee rises and NHS changes. Labour has been making huge gains both at city and county level. We must not discount the Tories either who had an excellent candidate at the last election and did better than expected. This is one of these rare three way marginals. It will make for an exciting contest

  35. Young people are very leftwing, Labour Students is the most rightwing major student organisation with influence and it is centre-left, so rightwing that Gemma Tumelty cried when she had to join the Labour party to gain support from Labour Students (ironic considering she tried to become Labour PPC for Bristol West).
    Personal view is that in reality, students who make up a huge part of the voting population – hence, the massive swing from LD to Labour in 2005 – will return to Labour. However, Huppert has a personal appeal as he is a bit of a rebel and is a very liberal scientist so it could be closer but he won’t win. However, Labour should have selected the PhD student from Cambridge not Daniel Zeichner again.

  36. “Personal view is that in reality, students who make up a huge part of the voting population – hence, the massive swing from LD to Labour in 2005 – will return to Labour.”

    How can there be any “swing” amongst students who voted in 2010. By 2015 they will all have finished their courses, most of them will have moved away from Cambrdge.

    In their place will be a bunch of first time voters who were aged 13-16 in 2010

  37. Not all of them, HH because of Master’s degrees etc. Young people aged 13-16 back in 2010, will probably never vote Lib Dem having lost EMA and seeing their fees treble thanks to them. Student vote is Labour’s now.

  38. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but general elections are about looking forward to what a party will do in power, not just looking back at what the government has done.

    Therefore what is Labour going to say to secure the vote of students? That they are going to reduce tuition fees and bring back EMA? Yeah right. Not going to happen.

    To be honest you might find a widespread staying at home amongst students, or a surge for the Greens, and that consequently some of the former Lib Dem votes Labour are banking on might turn out to be illusory.

    I find Cambridge a hard seat to call. If forced to guess I’d expect a narrow Lib Dem hold. Arguably it’s the lecturers and university employers who are more important than the students, also a lot depends on whether Tories vote tactically.

  39. Bob, from what I have seen in a pretty typical university town – Durham (backed up by non-tories) is that the student turnout is extremely poor and that the labour vote within the student population is no more than about 30-35%.

  40. At risk of repeating much of what has already been said:

    1. Most of the electorate here is not students nor works for the university – although the seat has an unusually high number of electors who hold at least a degree. What is shares with other ‘university’ seats is that it swung heavily from Labour to LibDem in 2005.

    2. Local election results here have produced significant Labour leads for the past 3 years.

    3. Labour currently leads the Lib Dems nationally by around 27 points per UKPR average – a wider margin than in the 1997 GE. Even if this narrows to, say 20-21 points ( Lab 35%, LDs 14% ?) in 2015, this is a return to the sort of lead that Labour enjoyed in 2001, when they held this seat with a large majority.

  41. The Tory vote could hold up or even go up but I think it’s LD v Labour here.
    A Labour gain looks fairly likely but it’s too hard to say whether it’s more likely than LD hold.

  42. Very few people expected the Tories to move out of the third place position last time, IIRC.

  43. If the Tories win overall then this seat would be in range.
    But something tells me a seat that votes for AV has a ceiling on it.
    The student vote thing going to Labour may well be proven correct, because there isn’t much alternative view on offer.
    The LDs are a busted flush with the students except the pot smoking sounding voice LD activist types and they wouldn’t be here atall.

    There were places where the students voted Conservative, but HH is correct, you need to treat these seats partly as a clean sheet of paper each time.

  44. One of the things I loath about the Lib Dems is all this santimonious holier than thou waffle that achieves nothing
    whilst indulging in things like gossip, smears, and decapitation strategy.
    I hope they’re reduced to a phone box.

  45. back from a drink

  46. The vitriol which Huppert suffers from both Tory and Labour MPs whenever he gets up to speak always surprises me. What can he have done to upset so many of them?

    I think it’s also been suggested that he’s victimised for his so-called “weirdy beardy” appearance.

  47. The decline in the Conservative vote here over the past generation in quite sobering, JJB 🙂

    Despite the very strong economic growth of the city and surrounding area and the local property price boom the Tory vote has gone from matching (or exceeding) their national share to lagging 10 or more points behind.

    Year /Camb/ National/ difference

    1979 46% (44%) +2%
    1983 42% (42%) 0%
    1987 40% (42%) -2%
    1992 39% (41%) -2%
    1997 26% (31%) -5%
    2001 23% (32%) -9%
    2005 17% (33%) -16%
    2010 26% (37%) -9%

    Apologies if the national figures are a bit approximate, but the trend is clear. I don’t think this has anything to do with a change in how students vote, but reflects the way that certain public sector and professional middle class voters have moved away from the Tories. Cambridge has a particularly strong concentration of such voters.

  48. Interesting post, James E, thanks for that. I agree that the public sector middle-class is much less likely to vote Conservative now than 25 years ago. I also think that the professional middle-class could be going the same way (though not to the same extent). And of course both groups are well represented in Cambridge. It may also have been significant that the Conservative MP before 1992 was Robert Rhodes James. Although he was no Wet on economics he was socially liberal and somewhat disapproving of the more philistine elements within the Conservative party.

  49. It is worth pointing out that the boundaries are drawn more in Labour’s favour than they were in 1979 & beforehand. However, they became slightly more unfavourable in 2010 than in 2005.

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