This 1983 poll by Varsity revealed the political and moral habits of Cambridge studentsVarsity Archives

“The average Cambridge student is an immoral Tory drugtaker, fairly confident of his future but with half an eye on the next plane out of the country” concluded Varsity in 1983. A student poll conducted by Varsity before that year’s election, which saw the incumbent Margaret Thatcher fight to stay in government against Labour and the SDP-Liberal Alliance, revealed that 40% of Cambridge students would vote for the Conservatives. A much smaller 13% intended to vote Labour, and 12% were to throw their lot in with Alliance. A poll like this tends to lend credence to some less-than-favourable preconceptions of Cambridge. With a general election just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to look through the Varsity archives and seek out our old election-time editions: do the stereotypes hold up?

“Cambridge students in 2024 seem a far cry from our ‘immoral Tory drugtakers’”

One article from 1966’s March 5 edition suggested requesting a postal vote directly from Conservative party HQ, regardless of whether students were intending to vote Labour, Conservative, or Liberal. The idea was to “cost the Conservatives time and money”. The article’s author quips that the Conservatives were highly “dedicated” and did not mind having to spend time answering “long and complicated questions”. It’s actually unclear as to how many Cambridge students would have even been eligible to partake in this cunning scheme, as the voting age was still twenty-one in 1966.

The New Labour years present some more interesting snapshots of student politics at Cambridge. One particularly vexed Varsity writer lambasted Tony Blair’s manifesto as “New Labour, New Gimmick” before his 1997 landslide election. Most curious are the articles written by “Rob” Jenrick (the now likely soon-to-be ex-MP Robert Jenrick). He would place a great deal of importance on the student vote in Cambridge in his full-page ‘Election Roundup’ spread in 2001. “Rob” also reported on Trinity College’s battle with the CUSU over their attempts to restrict students displaying political posters with a £1 an hour fine.


Mountain View

Student voters: why aren’t we heading to the polls?

2010’s pivotal general election saw Cambridge students vote in favour of Robinson College alumni Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Students polled by Varsity declared 31% for the LibDems, 25% for Labour, and only 19% for the Conservatives. Clegg’s bargain with the Tories to form the Coalition government ultimately cost the LibDems their support among Cambridge students, who now seem poised to support Labour at the upcoming election. Cambridge students in 2024 seem a far cry from our “immoral Tory drugtakers” (at least as far as the “Tory” part is concerned).