The media’s been full of stories about how Nick Clegg’s due to lose his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour in the next General Election. Here’s the latest. I’ve been a student at Sheffield Hallam University since 2011 and have been closely involved in the Sheffield Liberal Democrats campaigns the whole time, particularly the student side. I’m also a human being and have noticed several things.
- Sheffield Hallam is not a student constituency. Confusingly, the eponymous university is on the other side of the city and Sheffield Hallam students mostly live in the City Centre, Broomhill, Walkley and Nether Edge. These wards are all in the Sheffield Central constituency. There must be some Hallam students living in the Hallam constituency but since 2011 I’ve never met one. The University of Sheffield is closer to the Hallam constituency but is still located in the Sheffield Central constituency. There is one ward in Hallam, Crookes, that has a voting student population of a few thousand but the other wards don’t have great numbers of students.
- In the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, twenty one councillors were elected in the Sheffield Hallam constituency. Of those twenty, nineteen were Liberal Democrats and two were Labour. There was a by-election in Fulwood, a ward at the centre of Hallam, where Nick’s MPs office is based. Labour threw the kitchen sink in, hoping a big win would humiliate Nick. The Lib Dem majority rose and our candidate Cliff Woodcraft took half the vote. In the 2014 local elections, Labour narrowly won the Crookes ward because there was a split in the Lib Dem vote - ex Lib Dem councillor John Hesketh stood as an independent and if his share of the vote had gone to the Liberal Democrat candidate, he would have won.
- Sheffield residents have seen what a Labour administration looks like. Sheffield City council has been run by Labour since 2011 and it has been among the most incompetent, hopeless authorities in the country. They’ve closed libraries, cut waste collection, demolished the famous Don Valley Stadium where Jessica Ennis used to train, raised bus fares for students and all manner of daft policies.
- The Sheffield Liberal Democrats are among the busiest and most professional Lib Dem outfits in the country. We campaign all year round and while we have lost a lot of ground across the centre of the city, our vote has held up well in the affluent Hallam side of the city. The local Conservative party has collapsed with a number of senior members switching to UKIP and the regional office being closed down and moved to Rotherham. The Labour party has made disappointing progress over the last few years, particularly among students - the Sheffield Hallam Labour society dissolved earlier this year due to a lack of interest. Thirty seven thousand students and nobody wanting to be part of the Labour society.
Labour will beat the Conservatives into third place in 2015 but will come nowhere near Nick Clegg’s vote. If you don’t believe me, knock on a few doors in Fulwood or Dore & Totley and see for yourself.