08:28 Friday 19th April 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Cambridgeshire goes to the polls in just under two weeks time, on May 2nd, to vote on who should run the County Council for the next four years. The Council responsible of course for things like social care, education and transport. So whether you realise or not, you probably use Council services each and every week. At the moment, the Conservative Party are in overall control, holding 39 of the 69 seats. But with the Coalition Government’s policies being a bit unpopular to say the least at the moment, will we see voters turning against them? Well our Election Reporter Emma Howgego joins me in the studio. Morning Emma.
EMMA HOWGEGO: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: So we’re true blue in Cambridgeshire at the moment. Is there going to be a bit of a change at Shire Hall though?
EMMA HOWGEGO: Well to be honest I think it’s unlikely the Tories will lose control at Cambridgeshire this year. Like you said, they currently have 39 out of the total 69 seats. The LibDems are their nearest rivals with 21. And despite their national policy being very unpopular, the Conservatives locally do have a lot of momentum here. They’re very popular, particularly in the rural Northern parts of the County.
PAUL STAINTON: Ah but local elections, they are traditionally a time, aren’t they, when we get votes for opposition parties, protest votes.
EMMA HOWGEGO: Yes. I think the problem with Labour at the moment is they’re starting from a very low base in Cambridgeshire. They have just three councillors. Only two of those were voted in in 2009. One of them was voted in during a by-election in Arbury last year. But, having said that, in the last couple of years their share of the vote has been increasing in the City Council elections in Cambridge. But in the rest of the County they are unlikely to make any significant gains.
PAUL STAINTON: But of course in parts of Cambridgeshire there has been a significant rise in popularity for Ukip.
EMMA HOWGEGO: There has, certainly a little bit, particularly in the Northern parts of the County. In Fenland in particular Ukip are seeing a little bit of momentum going, so that will be an interesting bit to watch as well.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Very big in Ramsey of course. So which wards do you think will change political allegiance?
EMMA HOWGEGO: Well I think the key seats to watch are actually going to be in Cambridge, particularly in the Northern wards. Kings Hedges returned a Labour City councillor last year. They currently have a Liberal Democrat County councillor, but Andy Pellew is stepping down. Just over on the other side of the Milton Road in East Chesterton, that will be interesting, because the current Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Manning is facing opposition from Labour’s Clare Blair. Now you may remember she used to be a Liberal Democrat. She was a City councillor until 2011, got beat by Labour’s Gerri Bird, and then joined the Labour Party, now standing against her former colleagues. Elsewhere like you mentioned a moment ago, Ukip are hoping to do well. Now they’re hoping to retain the seat of Bourn in South Cambridgeshire. The current councillor there, Lister Wilson, he actually won it for the Conservatives in 2009, but he was later suspended from the Party and he joined Ukip last year. And Ukip didn’t actually have a candidate in Bourn in 2009, so actually voting for Ukip there is a bit of an unchartered territory. And Wisbech is going to be the other interesting one to watch this year. Samantha Hoy retained it for the Conservatives in a by-election in 2010. But there is a very strong Independent candidate there, Virginia Bucknor, and Labour also putting a lot of effort into that ward, with Ukip standing as well. Interestingly up there the Liberal Democrats haven’t put forward a candidate in Wisbech North. That’s despite coming in a close second in the 2010 vote. Now my sources suggest that it could be because the Liberal Democrats think that standing against the Independent candidate would simply be handing the Conservative an easy win in that ward.
PAUL STAINTON: Emma, thank you for that. Of course one of the big issues in local elections is voter apathy. In 2009 the turnout just under 40%. Not great.