Our biggest ever Election Survey: Cambridge students back Labour

Colm Murphy 23 April 2015

A survey conducted by The Cambridge Student into the voting intentions of Cambridge University students has shown Labour to be the most popular party. However, other polls of Cambridge have suggested a Liberal Democrat hold. Of the 732 responses to the survey, 245 students (33.5%) said they would be voting for the Labour Party candidate Daniel Zeichner at the polls on 7 May.

161 students (22%) said they intend to vote for Julian Huppert, the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP, who was elected as MP for Cambridge with 39% of the vote in 2010. The Green Party’s candidate Rupert Read came third with 154 students (21%) .

Meanwhile 129 students (17.6%)  stated they intend to vote for the Conservative candidate, Chamali Fernando, who has recently made headlines for her comments on people with mental health issues and her subsequent decision to sue her rival Julian Huppert for defamation. 25 students (3.4%) said they would either be spoiling their ballot or not voting at all on 7 May, a number that exceeds that of the 18 pro-UKIP students (2.5%).

However, polling of Cambridge generally suggests that Huppert will retain his seat. A Lord Ashcroft poll of 1000 people in March gave the Lib Dems a nine point majority at 40% after weighting. Also, a recent survey by High Fliers Research of over 500 Cambridge finalists put Labour and the Conservatives at equal pegging on 31%. Varsity are set to release their own survey in their Easter edition, due for release tomorrow.

Speaking to TCS, Daniel Zeichner welcomed the result but also said he will be “campaigning for every student vote between now and 7 May, because unless Labour wins in Cambridge, it is going to be another Conservative government.” His comments were echoed by Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who endorsed Zeichner in front of hundreds of Cambridge students at a recent Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC) event, stating “I would rather argue with a Labour government than fight a Tory one”.

Zeichner added: “I am talking to many students who tell me that they feel let down by the Liberal Democrats, but Labour has to earn their support.”

Julian Huppert, however, highlighted that the “margin for error is great” given it was only 732 Cambridge University respondents out of “thousands” of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin students, and because it was an opt-in poll. He also emphasised that he won 40% of the vote at the Cambridge Union hustings last term.

He continued: “I have clearly demonstrated over the last five years that I am committed to standing up for Cambridge and its students, and their values are hugely important to me.

“I made a pledge to vote against tuition fees and I kept that promise. I was a student here when Labour introduced fees and tripled them, having promised not to each time. No-one is in any doubt that this election will be a close fight between Labour and myself and I hope all students will exercise their right to vote.” 

The Green Party candidate, Rupert Read, commented: “This poll plainly puts us in contention, here in Cambridge, where the student vote could be the ‘kingmaker.'

“My experience on the doorstep and in the debating-halls is that there is no enthusiasm whatsoever for any of the old parties… Once people start to believe that we can win, then our vote goes through the roof.”

Read also welcomed the findings that he gained 42% of the vote among first-year students: “This bodes very well indeed for the future of the Green Party. With each year, we are growing in popularity.”

Chamali Fernando and Patrick O’Flynn were unavailable for comment.

TCS also asked for reaction from student parties. CULC Chair Rory Weal said: “It’s great to see Cambridge students backing Labour in significant numbers – only a big student vote for Labour will win this seat off the Lib Dems. As the election approaches more and more people  seem to be recognising that Labour really is offering something distinct and radical.”

The President of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) Amy MacDonald meanwhile emphasised that this was “one poll”, and that it “does not necessarily translate to how the parties will perform in the election”. She cited 31% support in the High Fliers survey, and said: “The fight for Cambridge will no doubt be a close contest.”

The Student Liberal Democrats were unavailable for comment.