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Campaigning intensifies for a double by-election takes places on the University and Scotforth rural ward on the 17th of May, after two Labour councillors stood down, with the Labour majority on the Lancaster city council at stake.
The Labour party candidates, Oliver Robinson and Amara Betts-Patel, have run a highly visible campaign, banking on their relatively substantial on campus party membership. They have run a substantial canvassing operation, no doubt looking to boost the turnout from the last election, where massive Green and Labour effort resulted in one of the lowest council election turnouts since the second world war.
Liberal Democrat candidates Jade Sullivan and Iain Embery have leant heavily on social media, producing video content, a technique that has been replicated by the other parties. They have also engaged in unconventional campaigning methods, including a fundraising bakesale in Alex Square.
Most unconventional of all however is the Green party, which has launched a campaign tackling plastic waste by deploying a statue of Poseidon (Greek God of the Oceans) built from assorted plastic debris. Their candidates Martin Paley and Jan Maskell are standing on a pro-environment platform.
The Conservative campaign, with candidates Guy Watts and Callum Furner, has deployed humour, with a poster campaign mimicking that of the Labour party around campus. This drew both condemnation and appreciation on social media.
Multiple parties have launched promoted social media advertising aimed at residents of the campus, though it remains to be seen if this will lead to higher vote shares. The ward also includes the rural houses scattered throughout the surrounding area, and with a higher propensity to vote than students, party insiders suggest they may well end up being crucial to the final result.
With the recent defection of Labour councillor Oscar Thynne to independent, Labour controls 28 seats on the Lancaster city council. Before the by-elections were called, they held a majority, and will be looking to regain it by holding both University ward seats, and winning a by-election in Skerton Ward, in the city of Lancaster.
The last by-election to be held on campus was in 2016, which was a win for the Labour party and it’s candidate Nathan Burns. They received 98 votes (35%), followed closely by the Greens on 79 votes (28%), the Conservatives on 68 votes (24%), and the Liberal Democrats on 36 (13%).
The Lancaster City Council is the lower tier authority, with the Conservative controlled Lancashire County Council taking responsibility for the majority of council spending. However the City Council still controls immense influence over areas such as planning regulation, as shown by this year’s vote to maintain noise testing conditions in developments near the sugarhouse showed.
Polling stations include the Chaplaincy Centre for County, Bowland, Pendle, Grizedale, Fylde and Furness colleges, and Barker House Farm for Cartmel, Lonsdale and Grad colleges.
As it is a local election, European Union and Commonwealth students are eligible to vote, though that isn’t the case for general elections.