Daniel Zeichner says Cambridge win was ‘bittersweet’ in the face of Labour losses
Cambridge’s Labour candidate Daniel Zeichner swept to victory in the city but claimed his celebrations were tempered by the losses suffered by other MPs in the party.
Holding his seat in the city, Mr Zeichner was returned with 25,776 votes - a lead of 9,639 over second-placed Liberal Democrat candidate Rod Cantrill. The results were announced at 4.15am at Cambridge Guidhall.
But Mr Zeichner said his win was “bittersweet” after seeing his party lose so many seats, a result he blamed on the Liberal Democrats and the SNP for calling the election rather than forcing Boris Johnson’s Tories into a second referendum.
He said: “It is absolutely bittersweet because whileI’m delighted to have been given the confidence of Cambridge again, clearly it has not been a good night for Labour and I’m very sorry to lose Labour colleagues within the region so we have got to go away and think hard about why we weren‘t able to beat a prime minister who frankly is not really fit for office.
“But that is something for another day. Tonight I’m going to celebrate with my friends, a great Cambridge Labour team. This is absolutely a victory for Cambridge Labour.”
Speaking of the issues that will face Cambridge during his next term as MP, he said: “We have huge challenges particularly around housing around transport around air quality and although I don‘t think a Johnson government will do nearly as much as a Labour government could have done.
“I will be doing everything I can to make sure that their fairly thin promises are kept to and that we can push them to do more.”
There have been calls from some within Labour for Jeremy Corbyn to step down, would he be adding his voice?
Mr Zeichner answered: “My understanding is that Jeremy has said he will not lead us into a further election now. I think that is sensible but what I want to see is a period of reflection and I think had he decided to go immediately that wouldn’t have been a good idea so I am pleased he is staying in the meantime. But we need to think hard about why we weren’t able to win this election.”
Would he accept that one of the reasons why Cambridge did not do as well as anticipated was because of their Brexit stance?
“No, I think actually the Brexit policy was absolutely right by the end for the whole country,” he said. “And I think if the Conservatives had the courage to put it back to the people they would find actually the people do not want to leave the European Union because they are going to be subjected to years and years and years of argument, division and ongoing negotiations, ultimately putting the National Health Service at risk to Donald Trump and I don’t think that is what the British people want.”
In his podium speech, Mr Zeichner blamed the SNP and Lib Dems for calling and early election, thereby destroying the chances of a second referendum on Brexit.
He said: “They are absolutely responsible for losing the opportunity to have that referendum, which I believe we would have won. The push for this early election at a ridiculous time - we are standing in the rain - was entirely down to Jo Swinson. She has lost her seat and on a human level I have every sympathy for her but she bears a very heavy responsibility and the people of Cambridge should always be aware of that. Remain was within our grasp and the Liberal Democrats threw it away.”
However, the Lib Dems saw the situation rather differently.
Rod Cantrill, who stood for the party in Cambridge, said: “The EU referendum result was a lightning bolt that woke many of us up to the dangers of populism and nationalism preying on people’s fears and dissatisfactions.
“I resolved then to do more, much more, to address the social inequality and lack of opportunity that was the driverin my view for that Brexit vote. I have worked with like-minded people from all parties to give the people of the UK an opportunity via a second referendum to choose a better future but I fear that the exit polls and the results this evening means that opportunity has been lost.
“Election campaigns are odd beasts: sometimes you’re up, sometimes not. I hope this one has crystallised in people’s mind what they want from their MP - someone who is willing to do politics differently.”
He said party politics could be guilty of “belittling the seriousness of the problems we face”.
“We can all do better in our interactions in person and online - to debate the issues properly, to disagree well and not to rise to provocation and I hope the people of Cambridge hold us to that standard as we try to find a way out of the mess that we have caused and we try to heal our divided communities and work to better everybody’s lives. Politics is about people and I’d like to thank everyone who has worked on my campaign. Together we felt we could move mountains and overturn a 12,000 majority, but it wasn’t to be."
Meanwhile the Green Party’s Jeremy Caddick, who attracted2,164 votes, said they had mounted a “respectable” campaign.
“I have not had to hide in any fridges and I haven’t had to steal anyone’s phone,” he joked, referring to incidents involving Boris Johnson.
“A slightly worrying thought is that if I had done either of those things I might have stood a better chance of being elected. One of the things that that has been striking about this campaign is the way that green issues have rocketed up the agenda, and the main parties have found themselves jostling for position as having the greenest policies. If the future of politics is having the greenest policies, then I think the Green Party will have achieved something.”
Conservative Russell Perrin was still upbeat about his party’s results, even through his own campaign had been less successful.
He said: “Despite the result not going my way in Cambridge, if we are to believe exit polls across the country the election has been won by the Conservatives. Whilst the view is not necessarily shared here, people have voted in particular for a principle, which is that we abide by the Brexit decision and that has been reaffirmed here tonight.
“On the doorstep it has been very positive in Cambridge. People have been very lovely, very polite. We have had a lot of people very fed up with the Brexit process who feel like their vote wasn’t listened to, but equally a lot of people have turned around and said, look, we respect the democratic process and we need to move on past this.
“Obviously there have been people who have felt like this was a ‘we can stop Brexit’ campaign. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t met those people but largely people have been very nice and very decent.”
Brexit Party candidate Dr Peter Dawe didn’t look too worried about not winning the election. He has many more ideas up his sleeve for Cambridge, but he is worried that any Brexit will be too soft.
He said: “It’s a Johnson-flavoured Brexit. Probably not as bad as a hung Parliament, probably not as good as a full fat Brexit. What I would like to have seen is for us to have come out of Europe on day one with a hard Brexit and this last three years would have been a negotiation about the stuff they are going to start talking about next year sometime.”
He added: “I have run as close to an independent campaign as one can within the Brexit Party. I have the massive advantage that I am in agreement with their one policy that Brussels is the enemy and they don’t have any other policies. I’m working on things closer in line with Extinction Rebellion than anyone else. I don’t have a head office steer, so I don’t suffer from being hypocritical. Societal breakdown is my main concern and climate is also an important issue.”
Very shortly after the results were called, tired staff closed down the Guildhall.
The result in full
- Daniel Zeichner, Labour: 25,776 votes, 48.0%, (-3.9%), elected
- Rod Cantrill, Liberal Democrat: 16,137 votes, 30.0%: (+0.8%)
- Russell Perrin, Conservative: 8,342 votes, 15.5% (-0.8%)
- Jeremy Caddick, Green: 2,164 votes, 4%: (+1.8%)
- Peter Dawe, the Brexit Party: 1,041 votes, 1.9% (+1.9%)
- Miles Hurley, Independent: 111 votes, 0.2% (+0.2%)
- Jane Robins, Social Democratic Party: 91 votes, 0.2% (+0.2%)
- Keith Garrett, Rebooting Democracy: 67 votes, 0.1% (-0.1%)
Registered voters: 79,951
More by this authorAlex Spencer