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Elections 2022: Row among political parties in South Cambridgeshire over claim of secret ‘pact’





A bitter political row has erupted after the Conservatives accused Labour and the Liberal Democrats of engaging in a secret electoral pact in South Cambridgeshire.

Anthony Browne, the Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire, suggested the parties were “trying to stitch up democracy” at next month’s district council elections. Picture: Keith Heppell. (56224161)
Anthony Browne, the Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire, suggested the parties were “trying to stitch up democracy” at next month’s district council elections. Picture: Keith Heppell. (56224161)

Anthony Browne, the Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire, suggested the parties were “trying to stitch up democracy” at next month’s district council elections.

The council is controlled by the Liberal Democrats, who won it from the Conservatives in 2018. Labour are not fielding candidates in 12 of the 26 wards.

But the Lib Dems and Labour have hit back at the MP’s claim, which they say is “a blatant attempt” to distract from the real issues and a case of getting in “excuses in advance”.

The two parties lead a coalition on the county council – which is not up for election this time – after ousting the Tories. But both parties deny that a pact exists between them in South Cambridgeshire, with the Lib Dems saying it “reeks of desperation” and Labour noting it “wasn’t even discussed”.

Mr Browne told the Cambridge Independent: “It seems highly unlikely that, despite successful campaigns in Cambridge city and for the Combined Authority mayoralty, Labour would just choose to contest so few seats that they could never form an administration.

“They either have no confidence in their ability to run a council, no faith in the electability of current political leaders such as the Labour mayor, or they have made a deal to split up the seats.”

Elizabeth McWilliams, the local democracy spokesperson for South East Cambs Labour, responded: “We’re not surprised to hear that Anthony Browne is casting around for excuses in advance. It’s very clear from talking to voters that the Conservative vote has collapsed.

“Previous Tory supporters are outraged by the failure to support struggling families through the cost of living crisis, disgusted by non-stop partying during lockdown, and dismayed by the shambolic performance of [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson.

“There is no pact between Labour and Lib Dems locally. This wasn’t even discussed. Why would we?”

South Cambs District Council Labour election campaign launch (56224092)
South Cambs District Council Labour election campaign launch (56224092)

All seats on South Cambridgeshire District Council will be up for grabs on May 5, along with all the parish and town councils under it except for Longstanton and Willingham. The 2018 election left the Lib Dems with 30 seats, the Conservatives with 11, Labour with two and there are two independents. Next month, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives will contest all seats. Labour is fielding 22 candidates across 14 wards and the Greens will field 16 candidates across 16 wards. There are independents standing in Histon and Impington and in Cambourne.

In Cambridge, a third of the seats on the city council are up for grabs. Yesterday (Tuesday), the ruling Labour group released its manifesto setting out its key pledges after last week’s publication of the Lib Dem and Green Party manifestos.

Mr Browne continued: “In most places – such as Barrington, Duxford, Cottenham, Papworth and Gamlingay – Labour supporters will be denied the chance to support their party. Labour is fielding fewer candidates than the Green Party, often only putting up one candidate and conveniently leaving another open for their supposed opposition.

“They know that voters hate political parties agreeing to stitch up elections, which may have something to do with their unconvincing denials. They also know such pacts make a mockery of elections and are an insult to the beliefs of their supporters, who are being expected to give their vote to candidates with a manifesto and agenda that may be radically different to their own.

“Voters should decide who wins elections, not backroom deals to stitch up democracy – a message that should be sent back to everyone involved in such shabby pacts.”

Cllr Bridget Smith, the leader of the Lib Dems on South Cambridgeshire District Council, responded: “Anthony Browne is just indulging in evidence-free speculation and this sort of untruth is just what you would expect from a die-hard supporter of Boris Johnson.

“It reeks of desperation and is a blatant attempt to detract from the issues that really matter to people such as the cost of living crisis.

“The Liberal Democrats believe that it is important that all voters have the opportunity to express their support for the values of liberty, equality and community, so we have put forward candidates in all 45 of the council seats up for election on May 5.”

Bridget Smith leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne. Picture: Keith Heppell. (56224198)
Bridget Smith leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambourne. Picture: Keith Heppell. (56224198)

Meanwhile, Ms McWilliams pointed to Labour’s record, adding: “Anyone who looks at our social media and our local party literature will see that we have been strong in calling out the multiple failings of the Lib Dem administration. Labour is standing an excellent set of 22 candidates. At the moment Labour has two councillors on South Cambs District so this means we are looking to secure more than 10 times as many councillors as we have today. It’s an ambitious target and we’re up for it.

“Our candidates have been chosen for their commitment to their local communities, for their passionate belief that South Cambs Council can be so much better run than it has been up until now. They all stand ready to serve their local areas and we hope that the voters will put their trust in them and elect them.”

Read more:

Elections 2022: Full list of South Cambridgeshire District Council candidates



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