Originally published in Cherwell on 3 June 2017.
Election on knife-edge as Brexit squeezes liberal Conservatives
Oxford West and Abingdon constituency is hotly contested between the incumbent Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats at the general election on 8 June, according to a shock new projection by pollster YouGov.
The projection, which predicts a hung parliament nationally, sees the Conservatives winning 40 per cent of the vote in the seat, with the Liberal Democrats ahead on 42 per cent. The Labour Party are significantly behind with a projected 17 per cent share of the vote, with the UK Independence Party, the only other party standing, projected to win just four per cent of the vote.
The seat has been represented by Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood since 2010, and has a Tory majority of 9,582 over the second-placed Liberal Democrats. Until recently, with the Conservatives riding high in the polls, a third term for Blackwood was considered highly likely.
Blackwood, who read Music at St Anne’s College, was criticised in a 2013 letter by 38 JCR presidents for voting against the legalisation of same-sex marriage despite intimating her support for the measure to students. She also garnered significant press attention in February after being moved to tears during a debate over alcoholism.
The Liberal Democrats, whose physics teacher candidate Layla Moran also stood in the constituency in 2015, aim to capture the seat with a strongly anti-Brexit message. Oxford as a whole voted by 70 per cent to 30 per cent in favour of remaining in the European Union in the referendum last June.
Lucasta Bath, President of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, told Cherwell: We’re really thrilled by the results of this poll: they are a strong indictment of Nicola Blackwood’s poor record as a constituency MP, and a tribute to all our members and volunteers who have worked so hard in recent weeks.
“We would urge all students in Oxford West and Abingdon to consider voting Liberal Democrat on 8 June as the only viable opposition in this constituency, and the only way to help prevent a Tory majority government.”
William Rees-Mogg, President of the Oxford University Conservative Association, was more sceptical, telling Cherwell: “I’d start by noting that this is a poll from YouGov, whose predictions have been way out of line with all other pollsters—who knows how accurate this is? It’s a single poll carried out using an untested method.
Rees-Mogg continued: “Nevertheless it’s a real encouragement to students to get out and vote Conservative, ensuring that we have a voice in government to represent us, not just a voice on the opposition backbenches.
Speaking to Cherwell, the incumbent MP Nicola Blackwood said: “Of course we know every vote really does count in this constituency, it’s why I am standing on my record as constituency champion.”
The projection suggests that the race in Oxford East is much less close, with Labour projected to win 62 per cent of the vote ahead of the Conservatives at 22 per cent. Last week, Cherwell revealed that the Labour candidate, Anneliese Dodds, was fined £75 for “illicit canvassing” in her successful 1998 campaign for the OUSU presidency
A poll commissioned by Cherwell last week revealed that 40.8 per cent of students in the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency planned to vote for Moran, compared with just 18.3 per cent for the Conservatives. In the Oxford East constituency, 54.2 per cent of voters planned to back Labour.
Layla Moran was contacted for comment.