A Response to Cambridge in Political Turmoil


Monday, December 7th, 2009. 12:19am


The Conservative stall at the Mill Road Winter Fair was unmanned. Neither the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives have a Candidate in Cambridge.

The Conservative stall at the Mill Road Winter Fair was unmanned. Neither the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives have a Candidate in Cambridge.

The Cambridge Universities Labour Club Blog recently ran an article by George Owers entitled Cambridge in Political Turmoil which discussed the state of the prospective candidates for Cambridge in the forthcoming 2010 general election. After having commented on the likely spread of candidates and the potentially fragmented spread of votes, particularly among the “left-leaning” candidates, he reports that Daniel Zeichner has expressed an opinion that the victorious candidate could win on as little as 25% of the vote.

I was particularly impressed by George Owers’ take on the local Liberal Democrats:

… many of the local Lib Dem councillors being unambitious, council chamber lobby fodder, misfits or rookies. I get the impression that certain local councillors, such as Belinda Brooks-Gordon, might go for it, but if she is representative of the calibre of candidates, the Lib Dems should be worried.

I couldn’t fit my response to the article in the comments on the CULC site so I’ve responded here:

If, according to George Owers, one of the best things about Daniel Zeichner is his strong independence and willingness to rebel against his party on important issues why vote Labour at all? A vote for Zeichner is a vote for a continuation of the current Labour government’s policies. Despite his protestations to the contrary Zeichner is clearly a party man.

It’s not just prolonged detention without charge, the national identity database and ID Cards. The current Labour government has thrown away the right to trial by jury in criminal cases and has enabled ministers to suspend inquests and replace them with secret inquiries. Next time the police accidentally kill an innocent man, mistaking him for a suicide bomber, we might not ever get to hear about it. The state is getting ever bigger and more powerful. Another example of this is the Labour Government’s new Independent Safeguarding Authority which will decide if about a quarter of people can work in particular jobs or not, making decisions on the basis of unproven allegations. The Labour government has also taken us to the point where all response police in the country are to be armed with TASERs.

I don’t like the direction in which the country is being taken. I don’t want to live in a country run by a large and oppressive state

I want to vote for an MP who will repeal the Identity Cards Bill; who will reinstate the right to a jury trial and not give-in to criminals intimidating jurors and generally put a stop to, and reverse, the erosion of civil liberties we’ve seen over the last decade of a Labour Government. I think Cambridge should send someone to Parliament who will continue the work David Howarth has done on civil liberties, but do it even better at it, without the distractions which have tempted an academic lawyer.

I want to vote for an MP who will take a responsible attitude to the national economy, not encourage further public or personal debt, and who will focus on trading our way out of the position we’re in. I’m worried a vote for Labour’s Zeichner is a vote for a continuation of the policies of the current government, economically and in all other areas too. Even in massively important areas such as Health and Education, in which Labour’s convictions are in the right place, I’m worried that they’ll keep throwing money at a problem which needs more than just assured funding, but a change in culture reinstating professional accountability and responsibility.

Zeichner’s promise to vote against any increase in tuition fees, even if that means rebelling against his party, is fantastic but I find it hard to believe a promise on tuition fees from a leading member of a party who fought an election on a manifesto pledge stating: “We will not introduce ‘top-up’ fees and have legislated to prevent them” and then introduced top-up fees regardless.

The article raises the possibility of John Hipkin standing. He is one of Cambridge’s better local councillors, but I don’t think he’s got the passion and energy to represent Cambridge in Parliament. I’ve noticed he is taking an interest in local issues outside his ward so that might be an indication he’s setting sights higher than Castle Ward. Would he be a single issue candidate though? What are his views on subjects other than planning and development? Is he really a still a Lib Dem at heart? I think how the city provides more housing is a major issue (I’ve written an article on my views, and those on the platform at a recent hustings event at) but I think an MP needs to be a generalist.

As for the Lib Dems I agree with, and am impressed by the insightfulness of, the comments in this article; I too can’t see a credible candidate emerging. Last year Julie Smith looked as if she might be being put into the frame, though I think her performance at the recent party conference will have ruled her out. Her heading-up of the city council’s unpopular programme of felling healthy trees and attempts to pave over swathes of Jesus Green have not gone down well and personally I think even the role of Executive Councillor has proved beyond her ability.

Cllr Chris Howell represented the Conservatives at a hustings event, debating tuition fees. That certainly indicates he’s someone the Conservatives have enough confidence in to put up, head to head, against Zeichner. I had hoped the Conservatives would hold a proper open primary and we might get to learn a lot about their candidate though that process, which would be excellent for democracy. However unsurprisingly the party are not prepared to put significant funds and effort into a seat they are unlikely to win and have opted for selection at a public meeting instead. Any Cambridge resident, if they’re a member of the Conservative party or not, can register via this link, before the 9th of December, to vote. Despite stunts like this in Cambridge a vote for the Conservatives in the next election though will be a vote for being governed by an Eton educated elite, and those they’ve chosen to join them through their “A-List” which positively discriminates rather than treating individuals on merit irrespective of sex and race.

Personally I can’t see anyone emerging who I’d want to vote for. Would any of them take a real interest in the NHS locally, local policing and really focus on the way government affects people’s lives? Juniper, while presenting a point of view which Government needs to take seriously, is surely too extreme to reasonably represent the views of Cambridge residents, personally, unlike Juniper, I think that keeping the lights on is one of the primary roles of government.

Juniper has said he won’t fight for the interests of the city if elected when asked about funding transport improvements, while that’s extreme, and odd for someone supposedly seriously seeking election the Liberal Democrats, led by Cllr Sian Ried, are not much better – when it comes to insisting transport improvements accompany growth – they’re opposed to A14 improvements designed to tackle a terrible road which kills and injures far too many people and has a terrible effect on the city.

4 comments/updates on “A Response to Cambridge in Political Turmoil

  1. Brian Johnson

    “Personally I can’t see anyone emerging who I’d want to vote for.”

    Exactly. And yet, if you don’t vote, you effectively allow other people’s votes to count double.

    For my ‘personally’ I’d say that I wouldn’t discount John Hipkin. He’s been in the Labour and the LibDem camps AND he’s been a mayor of this fine city. He may be more of a generalist than at first seems!

  2. Richard Article author

    I really don’t think Hipkin is in the running; he’s not been staying till the end of council meetings recently and his latest newsletter, sent in November, told recipients he wouldn’t be in touch again until late January.

    Those don’t look to me like the actions of a potential candidate.

  3. Steve Tierney

    You know, from your comments, you really don’t *sound* like a Lib Dem voter. All that sensible stuff about restoring our liberty and freedoms, discouraging personal debt, protecting our energy resources – that doesn’t sound like the leftist green agenda the Lib Dems promote these days. You sound like you belong in UKIP, or LPUK, or, dare I say, The Conservatives.

    Just an observation.

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