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Steve Barclay could be the only Tory MP from Cambridgeshire in the Westminster ‘village’

Phil Rodgers suggests if we accepted the findings of a recent poll, only one Conservative MP would remain in Cambridgeshire

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On Linked In (the online business profile site), Barry Lonsdale, owner of an Ely antique shop, describes himself as an entrepreneur. He once told his local paper that he regards his biggest achievement was “securing free parking in Ely (twice)” as chair of Ely Traders Association.

He’s not without a sense of humour, responding last year on social media to a critic that called him the “self-appointed Tory spokesperson for Burwell” by replying that “normally people refer to me as Blue Bin Barry” a nod to his quirky obsession with sharing to social media bin collection days.

But he is also an ardent fan of Tory MP Lucy Frazer, trumpeting her every photo opportunity of her movements in her SE Cambridgeshire constituency.

Barry, however, is beginning to sniff change in the air.

Like many ‘old school’ Tories locally he is aware of increasing disillusionment with Ms Frazer’s Government and the outcome of two by elections last Thursday will not have assuaged nervous party officials both locally and nationally.

The Conservatives are in a mess with the counts at Wellingborough and Kingswood coming only days after a new opinion poll predicting a Labour landslide – even suggesting an unprecedented majority of 254 seats at the General Election.

In a single moment of electoral decisiveness, the Conservatives could lose most of their seats, dropping into double digit numbers.

In Cambridgeshire political pundits such as Phil Rodgers from Cambridge suggests if we accept the findings, only one Conservative MP would remain.

And that would be Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, whose 29,993 majority in 2019 (72.5 per cent share of the poll) would be shaken and stirred but still insurmountable.

For Ms Frazer in SE Cambs and contesting the boundary revised Ely and East Cambs seat, the news is less heartening.

For Lucy Frazer in SE Cambs and contesting the boundary revised Ely and East Cambs seat, the news is less heartening.

For Lucy Frazer in SE Cambs and contesting the boundary revised Ely and East Cambs seat, the news is less heartening.

The poll – conducted by MRP on behalf of the Daily Mirror – suggests that Ms Frazer, along with all other existing Conservative MPs and new Conservative parliamentary candidates, would disappear in one fell swoop.

Mr Rodgers, who cautiously advises on X (formerly Twitter) that the poll’s findings should be taken “with a fairly large pinch of salt”, says analysing them alongside the new constituencies, suggests Labour would hold Cambridge and take Huntingdon, NW Cambridgeshire, St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire.

And for Ms Frazer it would be a rostrum appearance behind the Lib Dem candidate and a new MP for Ely and East Cambridgeshire, Charlotte Cane.

Mr Lonsdale, of course, has stepped a toe (more accurately two clumsy left feet) into the possible outcome, pointing out that he was “surprised to see Charlotte Cane is the Lib Dem candidate” adding, rather rudely perhaps that “age should not necessarily come in to the decision… ..born 1958”.

Those who have heard Ms Cane at her finest (audit committees of East Cambs District Council where she is deputy Lib Dem leader spring to mind) will find her fluent, concise and with a razor sharp and analytic approach to budgets and council spending.

Charlotte Cane, contesting Ely and East Cambs for the Lib Dems. Pictured here with Ed Davey, the party leader, who visited Ely last year

Charlotte Cane, contesting Ely and East Cambs for the Lib Dems. Pictured here with Ed Davey, the party leader, who visited Ely last year
Picture by Terry Harris.

And ‘inheriting’ to an extent entrenched Lib Dem support in places such as Ely itself, the task ahead may not appear as herculean as some might think. Labour, of course, have different expectations for this seat.

But for the Conservatives, the signs of growing discontent locally have been evident for a while.

Cambridgeshire County Council set the wheels in motion when a ‘rainbow alliance’ seized power in 2021; although the Tories won more wards than any other party, events such as the well documented ‘farmgate’ scandal involving the deputy leader Roger Hickford, meant they failed to find favour with any opposition group or independent councillors to remain in power and so were unceremoniously ditched.

And, of course, a raft of second preference votes allowed Labour candidate Dr Nik Johnson to oust James Palmer as Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. In 2025 the election of a mayor returns to a first past the post system but speculation about that is best left for another day.

For politicians of all persuasions – or none – clues about what happens in a General Election campaign in Cambridgeshire will be found in such local affairs as a forthcoming by election in Yaxley and Farcet for the county council that follows the death of the popular incumbent councillor Mac McGuire.

He took a 56.9 per cent share of the vote in 2021, reflecting in many ways his longevity and popularity.

But Huntingdonshire as a whole is not looking good for Tories, where in 2022 a coalition of the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Green and Independent councillors took over the district council; it ended a Tory period of control that had existed since 1976.

It also saw the beginning of the end of the political career of former council leader Ryan Fuller (he lost his seat) who ended his association with MP Jonathan Djanogoly (he had been an aide) and has blighted his fortunes since.

Although Ryan Fuller remains a county councillor (he’s now an independent) he has attracted disquiet and that worst of all traits, mirth, among former colleagues for seemingly moving country to Thailand but remaining a councillor with his annual allowance intact.

In Cambridge Labour seems to be recovering from its election loss last year  where a Tory, Mohamed Delowar Hossain, won a by-election in the King’s Hedges ward on Cambridge City Council, the first Tory to win a council seat since 2012.

Mohamed Delowar Hossain won a by-election in the King's Hedges ward on Cambridge City Council. He was named Cambridgeshire Politician of the Year by CambsNews

Mohamed Delowar Hossain won a by-election in the King’s Hedges ward on Cambridge City Council. He was named Cambridgeshire Politician of the Year by CambsNews. Photo: John Elworthy

Free, perhaps, of the congestion charge debacle weighing on voters’ minds, the city Labour group hope to excise the memory of that moment in May.

Fourteen seats in Cambridge are up for grabs and, back to Mr Rodgers, and in his column for the Cambridge Independent, he wrote: “Labour still dominate on the city council, though the political environment is getting gradually more difficult for them.

“As well as the challenge of their main opposition, the Lib Dems, they also face the growing strength of the Greens and Conservatives.”

But it could be the role of police and crime commissioner that will offer the best test of voters’ intentions.

Darryl Preston has been the Conservative commissioner for four years and whilst his record remains unblemished (a predecessor Jason Ablewhite was obliged to cut short his term of office following an inquiry into indecent images of himself shared on social media to a woman) there are question marks over the substance of his work during his four years in office.

A 3-way contest (Labour and Lib Dems have picked their candidates, Cllr Anna Smith, and Cllr Edna Murphy respectively) and will be as good a test of voting intentions as any ahead of the General Election.

FACT FILE.

The national opinion poll referred to above was conducted by Pollsters Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now. MRP stands for Multi-level Regression and Poststratification and is considered a relatively recent innovation in polling science. However, it did successfully predict the last two British general elections and does a constituency-by-constituency analysis of likely outcome.

A sample size of over 18,000 people was used.

If correct, 18 Conservative Cabinet members will lose their seats.

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