The battle for Cambridge: Forget political parties, it’s all personality
Party time is over, this term
With less than a fortnight to go until the general election, Cambridge feels like the Mean Girls cafeteria scene – except that everyone is crowded around the desperate wannabes’ table, brandishing campaign banners.
The battle for Cambridge is no longer a regular election run-up – in fact, it’s getting pretty personal. Chamali Fernando, the Conservative candidate, is close to being abandoned by her own party, after CUCA condemned her for suggesting that people with certain mental health conditions could wear coloured wristbands.
Even Nick Clegg and the Tory-loving Daily Mail have jumped onto the moral high-ground after this story, branding Fernando’s comments “silly” (I’m not making this up). A total of 1,200 people have signed an online petition calling for Chamali Fernando to stand down.
Incredibly, Fernando is now suing Julian Huppert for defamation, claiming that her comments about mental health were taken out of context and manipulated by the Lib Dem MP.
Or is he a Lib Dem? Reluctant to campaign on behalf of his own party, Huppert has been generously doling out campaign flyers advertising himself as “an independent voice for Cambridge”.
He’s still a Lib Dem though – I’ve checked. And as for his ‘strong independent voice’, on a website tracking Huppert’s voting record, Labour activists show that our MP has voted with Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith 94% of the time.
In the meantime, Labour’s own Daniel Zeichner – fervently backed by CULC (and maybe even CUCA, after the Fernando fiasco) – has tried a different approach to personality politics by promising to get rid one of Britain’s most hated personalities.
She looks bemused
Thanks to CULC, Katie Hopkins’s face has gone viral. But what of Zeichner’s own personality? Apparently, he’s the kind of person who spells ‘YOU TUBE’ as two words on his campaign website. Daniel Zeichner also seems to think that YouTube is a verb, as in ‘YOU TUBE DANIEL’. I don’t tube anyone, thanks.
Next, the Greens, or rather, Rupert Read. Read has ‘disappointed’ Natalie Bennett by deviating from the party’s policy, after defending transphobic feminists and tweeting that he felt a ‘senseofbeingtroubled’ at the use of the term ‘cis’.
And finally, Patrick O’Flynn, who is a bit of a joke, but is also being primed as UKIP’s next leader – perhaps because he has not yet revealed himself as gibbering racist lunatic, unlike the rest of his party.
Ultimately, it’s clear that politicians don’t have to toe the party line. They may actively choose to do so (like Zeichner), or they may pretend not to (like Huppert). They may be censured by their party (like Fernando), or they may choose to defect from it. Just last week, Nick Clarke, formerly the Chair of the Cambridge Conservatives and once a leader of the Cambridgeshire County Council, decided to leave the Tories for UKIP.
This should come to no one’s surprise – at a King’s Politics local hustings last year, Clarke basically came out as a climate change denier. But the point is that it’s always worth looking at where a politician stands as an individual. That is the value of hustings, open meetings, and local campaigns.
More than any other constituency, the battle for Cambridge is not being fought by parties, but personalities.
For an insight into our politicians’ true personalities – past the party pleas, posters and press releases – get your hands on a free ticket to the King’s Politics Cambridge Parliamentary hustings.