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GENERAL ELECTION: Parties battle for student votes in marginal
THE student vote will play a vital role in the battle for the key marginal seat of Oxford East, political hopefuls said last night.
Thousands of residents in the city centre, including many Oxford University colleges, will vote in the constituency for the first time thanks to boundary changes introduced at this election.
The seat, which was held by Labour’s Andrew Smith, is a key target for the Liberal Democrats after they missed out by just 963 votes in 2005.
And both parties have been campaigning hard to win student support.
The city centre wards of Carfax and Holywell, home to more than 8,000 voters including Students at numerous colleges, have been moved from Oxford West & Abingdon to Oxford East as part of a boundary review.
Liberal Democrat candidate Steve Goddard said: “The fact that three of the four city councillors in those wards are Lib Dems suggests it is a good area for us.”
And the university lecturer, who is hoping to make it third time lucky on May 6, said his campaign had targeted the new areas.
But Mr Smith also welcomed the new constituents and warned his challengers not to take anything for granted. He added: “Students vote on a whole range of issues and there is a wide diversity of views.
“The student vote is very difficult to predict. I have seen different polls and some show us ahead of the Lib Dems. Most will vote for the first time at this General Election so are open to the arguments.”
Oxford University Student Union vice-president for access and academic affairs Jonny Medland said a significant number of students would vote in the city – and their voice would play a vital role.
He said parties had stepped up their campaigning in student areas, although it was not clear last night how many students were registered to vote in the city, rather than at family homes elsewhere. He added: “We have been encouraging people that if they are interested in making a difference and having a vote that counts to vote here in Oxford in this marginal seat.
“It will be close and, if students vote, their voices will be heard.”
The changes were made as part of a UK boundary review to ensure constituencies contained equal numbers of voters.
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