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By Jonathan Tomlin
Three Oxford University students are engaged in a fight to become City Councillor in a student-dominated ward in next month’s local elections.
The undergraduates are battling it out to represent Holywell ward, an area covering a large part of the city centre and numerous Oxford colleges, including New, Magdalen and University.
Sam Hollick, a Christ Church fourth year, representing the Green Party, faces opposition from St John’s finalist Alex Harvey, the Labour Party candidate, and Robin McGhee, a St Anne’s third year, for the Lib Dems.
The Conservative candidate is an undergraduate at Brookes.
Both of the councillors currently representing the ward are Liberal Democrats. The party gained 39 percent of the ward’s vote in 2010 and 45 percent in 2008. Only one seat is being contested this year.
Most recently the Greens came in second place, with 23 percent of the vote, while in each of the previous elections the Labour candidate has polled last, securing just 17 percent in 2010.
Despite this recent lack of success, Harvey is optimistic about his chances this year. He said: “People are angry at the Lib Dem betrayal but positive about the message we’re making.”
“Nationally these elections give people a chance to cast a verdict on the government and the direction in which they’re taking the country.”
McGhee, however, is keen to distance himself from the Coalition’s policies and the Lib Dem leadership to focus instead on local issues. He said: “This is a local election. So for God’s sake vote local.”
Casting himself as a maverick, he even suggested that voting for him is a good way “to sock it to [the Lib Dems] nationally”, since he “opposes so much of what the leadership has been doing” and “can change it from the inside”.
Hollick promotes himself as standing for the Greens “to defend services and to boost the local economy through investment in jobs”.
But Harvey insists that only a vote for him sends a message that “the harsh austerity imposed from Whitehall” has “no mandate”.
He also defended the performance of the City Council, saying: “Oxford [City Council] pays a living wage to all its employees, our buses are at the EU legal minimum for carbon emissions and the Council plans to build over a thousand new houses in the coming years”.
The Conservative Party candidate, Robert Sargent, said he wanted “to improve life for everyone living in the Ward”.
OUSU hosted hustings for all the candidates on Wednesday evening, after The Oxford Student went to press.
Elections are taking place on 3rd May across Oxford for the City Council. Students may also be eligible to vote in local elections taking place in areas where they live outside term time.