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Ely and East Cambridgeshire: 'Lib Dems Winning Here?'

In the first of a series by DevComms, setting the political scene at locations around the Eastern region as the General Election draws closer, account executive Aleksis Butler considers how the parties may approach the new constituency of Ely and East Cambridgeshire.

As political landscapes shift, constituencies adapt accordingly, reflecting changes in demographics, boundaries, and political affiliations. The emergence of the new constituency of Ely and East Cambridgeshire stands as a significant milestone in the region’s political map, shaped by evolving dynamics and historical legacies.

Ely, steeped in a rich medieval heritage, has long served as a cultural and historical hub, anchored by its iconic cathedral and scenic surroundings that draw residents and tourists alike. Meanwhile, East Cambridgeshire, encompassing towns like Soham and Littleport, boasts its own distinct history, influenced by a blend of agriculture and industry.

This newly formed constituency replaces the former South East Cambridgeshire seat, currently held by Conservative MP Lucy Frazer, who also serves as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Since its establishment in 1983, the constituency has been a stronghold for the Conservative Party, with Frazer being one of only three Conservative MPs to represent the area.

While it remains uncertain whether Lucy Frazer will vie for the new Ely and East Cambridgeshire seat, her recent proactive engagement with local residents and parliamentary involvement, including her role in introducing the Football Governance Bill, positions her as a notable figure in the political landscape, potentially preparing for another General Election run.

However, the focus shifts beyond individual candidates to the broader electoral dynamics. Currently, Electoral Calculus indicates a tight race, with the Liberal Democrat Party holding a slight edge at 36 per cent, compared to the Conservative Party’s 35 per cdent, chance of winning the seat as of March 21, 2024.

The Liberal Democrats have nominated Charlotte Cane, a councillor on the East Cambridgeshire District Council, as their parliamentary candidate. Cane’s confidence in her party’s prospects stems from a strategic assessment of Labour’s perceived lack of intent to contest the seat seriously, coupled with the Liberal Democrats’ entrenched support base in key areas like Ely.

Furthermore, Cane’s track record as deputy Lib Dem leader on the audit committees of East Cambridgeshire District Council underscores her proficiency in fiscal matters, appealing to constituents concerned about budgetary allocations and council spending.

For the Conservative Party, signs of growing discontent loom large, evidenced by recent events at Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council. The ‘rainbow alliance’ that seized power in 2021 highlighted fissures within the Conservative ranks, exacerbated by controversies such as the ‘farmgate’ scandal involving deputy leader Roger Hickford. Moreover, the loss of control in Huntingdonshire District Council marked the end of a decades-long Conservative dominance, signalling shifting political tides in the region.

As the electoral landscape evolves, local affairs offer vital clues about broader political trends. The by-election in Yaxley and Farcet for the county council seat, following the death of incumbent councillor Mac McGuire, serves as a litmus test for the General Election campaign in Cambridgeshire. McGuire’s popularity and longevity underscore the significance of personal rapport and community engagement in local politics.

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in this tightly-contested race, with Andrew Richard Wood securing 509 votes, marks a significant turning point. Defeating his Conservative rival Kev Gulson by a mere 39 votes, Wood’s win not only secures the council seat but also propels the Liberal Democrats to the forefront, making them the largest party on the county council with 23 councillors.

This triumph not only solidifies their presence but also sets a precedent for the upcoming General Election campaign in Cambridgeshire, indicating potential shifts in political allegiance.

In this dynamic environment, the new constituency of Ely and East Cambridgeshire represents a fusion of tradition and progress, offering both opportunities and challenges for political contenders. With Charlotte Cane leading the Liberal Democrats’ charge, the party aims to position itself as the primary challenger to Conservative dominance.

By Aleksis Butler

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