The City of Bath is entering the final leg of the 2015 General Election with both the constituency and all local councillor seats up-for-grabs. Registration has now closed (well, it will have by midnight on the day of publication), but for those planning to vote, here are five dynamics to watch out for on election night:
1. Will Bath go blue?: Bath has been a Liberal Democrat constituency since Don Foster beat then-chairman of the Conservative Party, Chris Patten, to the seat in 1992. Since then, the Liberal Democrats have dominated the politics of Bath. Since 1992, Mr. Foster has seen his majority drop with each election, but in 2010 – in light of ‘Cleggomania’ – he solidified a 56.6% majority, a whole 25% above his Conservative competitor. However, five years in coalition have been disastrous for Lib Dem credibility and with Don Foster stepping down, it is up to Steve Bradley to prove he can maintain the seat with the same charisma as Mr Foster. But the Conservatives are putting a lot of money behind Bath, sending in the very capable Ben Howlett to run for the seat. The bookies suggest the seat will remain yellow, but only just. If Bath does go blue, however, you can rest assured that it will be a disastrous night for the Lib Dems nationally.
2. The kids aren’t alright: Westmoreland ward – which is being voted on in May – is home to two councillors and a considerable student population. It is peculiar, therefore, that last year Westmoreland Independent Councillor June Player should forward a motion which recommended exploring the payment of Council Tax on student housing (of which we are currently exempt). This could add a further £2,500 to each student house, but Miss. Player claims it was meant to be passed onto the landlords. On a similar note, the Liberal Democrats have been key to Article 4D, which requires student housing to be spread more thinly across the city, potentially having negative consequences on rent prices and bus routes. And, of course, there are tuition fees, which we can pin on the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Either way, both locally and nationally there are plenty of grievances which can only be called up on in the ballot booth.
3. Minority Rules: This is the first election where ‘third parties’ including UKIP and the Greens could perform better than usual. In Bath, will either party be able to score over 10% of the vote? The Greens have come closest with 5.4% in 2005, and with strong student support it might just help push the party to its highest ever poll result in Bath (as well as beating the other ‘surge’ party, UKIP)
4. The student bloc: Yes, the ‘Green Surge’ is linked closely to students and yes, Bath has a high student population, but there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, a poll conducted by bathimpact suggested that students aren’t the ‘left-of-Marx’ voters we are assumed to be; the Green and Conservative vote by students seems neck-and-neck. Secondly, students don’t vote. Well, don’t vote as much. Either way, the student bloc is both less powerful and less monotonous than might be suggested.
5. Standing students: there is one University of Bath student standing for Member of Parliament, final year French and Politics student Katy Boyce. The Green hopeful in standing in the next door constituency of North East Somerset (which surround Bath), but will have her work cut out. With only 670 votes in the 2010 election, it seems unlikely she will catch up with the Tory MP and conservative parody Jacob Rees-Mogg.