Labour claim victory at the union debate

Olly Hudson 24 January 2015

As the General Election draws closer, on Thursday members of the Cambridge Union Society voted to return a Labour government to power.

The first debate of Lent Term, with the motion “This house would welcome the return of a Labour government,” saw the ayes claim a clear margin of victory, gaining 42% of the vote, compared to 28% for the noes.

The result of the debate is likely to provide cause for concern for the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, whose hopes of re-election depend upon his party’s ability to hold this marginal swing seat.

In response to the outcome, Publicity Officer of Cambridge Universities Labour Club, Rory Weal, stated: “This result shows that students in Cambridge recognise that the Labour Party is best placed to fundamentally change society, and lead the fight for equality.”

CULC also noted that the 5% swing to the proposition from the pre-debate poll would, if repeated at the constituency level, be enough for the Labour Party to win Cambridge from the Liberal Democrats in May.

Nonetheless, the result does not make entirely comforting news for Labour. The 35% abstention rate suggests a sizeable proportion of the chamber had failed to be convinced by the arguments put forward by either the Labour proposition or the Conservative-led opposition.

Commenting on behalf of Cambridge University Liberal Democrats, Reece Edmends argued: “The debate showed that over half of Union members were unsure about a Labour majority government. Rather than trust Labour with total power, I’d urge them to re-elect Cambridge’s radical liberal MP, Julian Huppert.”

The committee of Cambridge University Conservative Association issued this statement to The Cambridge Student: “This was a highly enjoyable debate and both the opposition and proposition speakers performed well. But given Labour’s economic policy involves pointing at expensive things (other than tax bills) and promising to make them cheaper, it is unsurprising that the Union membership, being used to its membership fees, would choose to support the motion.”

The debate featured London mayoral hopeful, David Lammy MP, speaking in proposition, in addition to Shadow Minister for Communities and Development, Hilary Benn, as well as Vice-Chair of Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC) and third-year MML student Holly Higgins.

The opposition was composed of a broad coalition, including Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, Editor-in-Chief of Cambridge’s branch of The Tab, Charlie Bell, in addition to Lembit Opik, ex-Liberal Democrat MP who lost his seat in the 2010 General Election.

As the election begins to gather momentum, Cambridge, as a marginal seat is likely to attract increased attention. The most recent Lord Ashcroft poll in Cambridge, carried out in September 2014, gave Labour a lead of just 1% over the Liberal Democrats.