Greg Mulholland writes… Just back from canvassing with Elwyn Watkins

I am just back from canvassing with Elwyn Watkins in Oldham East and Saddleworth. I’m writing this now from the by-election HQ in Greenfield in Saddleworth.

I came up to help today because I felt it was so important that after a tough week for us as a party, we work together to fight for what we stand for as a party.

Here in Oldham the fight is against a Labour Party that have been caught out lying about their opponent and stirring up racial tensions in order to get elected.

I don’t think there’s a Liberal Democrat who feels that’s right. It was quite clear to me on the doorstep that the people of Oldham East and Saddleworth feel appalled at Labour’s campaign.

Elwyn Watkins and Greg MulhollandDon’t let anything stand in your way of getting to Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Today was my second campaigning day here. Getting here to my first will go down in by-election legend. The team member who picked me up will never hear the end of it.

If you want to know why, ask the team in Oldham and look for the “Warning: Road Closed” sign on the wall to find out!

We’ve had a cracking start to the campaign, I’ve had a positive reception on the doorsteps and there’s a real sense of momentum with the team. It’s really important that we keep that pace as we go into Christmas.

Of course it’s not all hard work. The team here are all fantastically motivated and the whole experience is great fun. The scenery is wonderful too, a brilliant backdrop to go out delivering or canvassing.

When I last came I visited a brewery next-door to the HQ. They now have a stall outside our front door, so you can even do some late Christmas shopping or pick up a few bottles for the family over the festive period!

In Elwyn Watkins we have a great candidate and a fine Liberal Democrat.

I’ve been here twice to show Labour what we’re really made of, and I’ll certainly be up again in good time. I hope to see you here!

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22 Comments

  • Robert Francis 15th Dec '10 - 8:43pm

    This is going to be an interesting result, it could be won by Lab, Tory or Lib Dem.

    We have to ensure a Lib Dem victory, fingers crossed!!!

  • Good luck to you all, and sorry I can’t make it myself.

  • David Evans 15th Dec '10 - 9:11pm

    I’ll be there.

  • Man on the Bus 15th Dec '10 - 11:01pm

    Really surprising article for what it doesn’t say – that there’s any chance of a Lib Dem victory. Would have expected that in a piece encouraging people to campaign there.

  • You may as well make the most of it , because IF you do win it it will be the last bit of cheer you are going to have for a very, very long time.

  • Man on the Bus 16th Dec '10 - 1:06am

    We can only hold our breath, but with LD support down by 2/3 since May holding on to 2nd place would be an astonishingly good result.

  • Sunder Katwala 16th Dec '10 - 8:18am

    Greg Mulholland can very legitimately criticise the Labour campaign in the seat in strong terms: the campaign was not acceptable, and not only for the reasons in the court finding.

    But, given his endorsement of the LibDem candidate as “a fine Liberal Democrat”, can we read into that anything as to whether the Elwyn Watkins now rejects or has apologised for his position that he “would rip up the Geneva Convention” on asylum and deportations, having attacked Labour’s Phil Woolas from the right over these issues last time around? Or is that compatible with such a description?
    http://www.nextleft.org/2010/11/how-oldhams-libdem-candidate-attacked.html

    The tone, approach and strategy of the Woolas campaign were indefensible. But I do not think it is possible to identify any heroes in the rather murky Oldham and Saddleworth saga.

    It is clear that were certainly were some independent extremist groups campaigning against Woolas, but he made his challenge to this in a very inappropriately generalising way (and I don’t know that he had any evidence to blame the candidate/party who were in receipt of such support from outside).

    In particular, the MPAC pressure group, which was actively campaigning, has often attacked not just Labour candidates but also Liberal Democrats, notably ethnic minority LibDems, and Conservatives, in the most lurid and ridiculous terms, such as arguing that Sayeeda Warsi is controlling the Tory party of the English Defence League and Conservative Friends of Israel). It would have been appropriate to challenge that group, but it is not the same group pictured in the infamous leaflets, and it was wrong to offer a strategy which failed to make appropriate distinctions between small groups of idiots and a large section of the community, so which risked having the impact of polarising relationships in a town which had seen race and community tensions.

    Let’s hope all sides keep the campaign within legitimate boundaries this time. A clear statement about the Geneva Convention issue from the LibDem candidate could be a positive step from the LibDem side, alongside clear Labour statements about rejecting the methods and approaches of the Woolas leaflets which have been rightly criticised.

  • TheContinentalOp 16th Dec '10 - 8:49am

    The increasingly frequent number of threads appealing for support doesn’t send out a particuarly positive vibe.

  • Grammar Police 16th Dec '10 - 8:53am

    @ Alec Mapeth – to her credit, Harriet did disown Woolas straight after the judgment. However, a number of Labour MPs / party members then began donating cash to ensure he could try to judicially review the election court. Is that enough of a distinction between Woolas and the wider party?

  • Emsworthian 16th Dec '10 - 9:03am

    Jolly clever ploy calling it over Xmas while the local students are on vacation

  • The fight is against Labour?

    O+S is a distinct 3-way marginal. There’s 5% between the Coalition + Labour. Your best chance really is to join with the Tories formally. The electorate isn’t stupid – they can see that you won’t campaign against your bed partners.

    Of course, if your plan is to get the election booked in before the NUS can organise the student body to campaign against you – that isn’t a sign of desperation is it?

  • @Grammer Police
    “to her credit, Harriet did disown Woolas straight after the judgment. However, a number of Labour MPs / party members then began donating cash to ensure he could try to judicially review the election court. Is that enough of a distinction between Woolas and the wider party?”

    A number of Tories want a return of the Death penalty does that tar them all ?

    I think it is fair to say that Woolas had friends who felt he was harshly dealt with. But that is not a reflection of the party as a whole. In fairness to Harman she acted as soon as the judgement was made, any sooner would have been changing the convention of innocent until proven guilty (sonething even Blair failed to do!).

    They deserve to lose here because of Woolas but I agree with others that, in this case, it is a localised issue. Otherwise these tactics would have been used country wide and if that had happened the press would have jumped on it by now.

  • @Alexc Macph

    Here in Oldham the fight is against a Labour Party that have been caught out lying about their opponent and stirring up racial tensions in order to get elected.

    The key word in that sentence is a as that makes it refer to the local Labour Party who certain did lie about their opponent and try to stir up racial tensions. If it had said the instead of a then I agree it would mean the whole Labour Party and would be untrue

  • Judging by the Local Government cuts to this constituencies budget then I don’t think this is an area that the Tory Dems have tactically pinpointed to win.

  • Hmm, I find this quite interesting, I don’t know if the LDs are really as confident as appearance is portraying or are LDs being influenced into a little rush on things, or is it that there is an advantage to being gained, is there some skulduggery going on?

    I do ask as several things come to mind, as mentioned before, students going back to uni, but I think more serious is a thought which I would not think the LDs or any party would consider, but I have to ask about…

    we have just been warned about the weather and how bad it is going to be, are the LD trying to take advantage of this or is there provision in law to postpone a by-election if the weather is considered bad,(Snow & Ice making it dangerous) if there is no provision then I think this is another underhand trick that ought to be contested.

    This has to be considered underhand if the LD pursue this, and I wonder if the LD has been given some poor advice or really good advice if the intention is to keep the turnout very low.

    Oh and is a liar a liar no matter which party they belong to, or is it only they belong to Lab, pot and kettle etc…
    they are not the only party who have just been caught out… it is a little strange…

  • toryboysnevergrowup 17th Dec '10 - 10:29am

    Not surprisingly I see no comment on why the LibDems have broken with convention and moved the writ or why they have decided to hold the campaign over the Christmas period. You even had to resort to getting your parlimentary ally George Young to tell an untruth about the Winchester byelection to justify moving the writ:

    “In that case the seat was previously held by a Conservative, and the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip moved the writ. So in the most recent case of a precedent where a seat has been declared void, the Chief Whip of the party previously holding the seat did not move the writ.”

    Why do the LibDems want as low a turnout as possible I wonder??

  • Foregone Conclusion 17th Dec '10 - 4:52pm

    “we have just been warned about the weather and how bad it is going to be, are the LD trying to take advantage of this or is there provision in law to postpone a by-election if the weather is considered bad,(Snow & Ice making it dangerous) if there is no provision then I think this is another underhand trick that ought to be contested.”

    I’m sorry to say that Cowley Street doesn’t yet possess the ability to predict what the weather will be in a month’s time. It would be nice if we did! At first, the general expectation was that the poll would be held in mid-December (i.e. probably yesterday). Woolas’s decision to waste his money and everyone else’s time on his judicial review meant that that’s been pushed back a month. The people of Oldham East and Saddleworth will have been without an MP for over two months by the time the election is finally held – at a time of serious cuts, when they need a represenative most. The Labour candidate has now been selected, meaning that there just under a month’s campaigning ahead, and if we ignore the week around Christmas, three full weeks. I see no reason why turnout would be especially low, or for that matter that it would be any higher after another week or two.

    “get the election booked in before the NUS can organise the student body to campaign against you…”

    I may later eat my words, but the NUS as currently constituted couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, never mind a successful campaign against Elwyn Watkins. At worst, Aaron Porter will turn up with a few mates, say something nasty about the Lib Dems, and then go back to campaigning for a second term as NUS President.

  • I heartily hope you lose, and lose badly.

    Perhaps that will serve as the wake up call needed for your deluded leadership and members to realise they are heading for electoral melt-down?

    Nothing less than a convincing victory for the LD’s will be sufficient….. and it doesn’t really even seem like your own side believes that is going to happen.

  • @Foregone Conclusion
    “The people of Oldham East and Saddleworth will have been without an MP for over two months by the time the election is finally held – at a time of serious cuts, when they need a represenative most. ”

    And A Lib Dem MP will help and represent in what way? Lib Dem MPs supported the cuts in their role of tail of the dog initiating fast and vicious cuts.

  • Natalie Hughes 21st Dec '10 - 11:15pm

    Galen10
    Posted 18th December 2010 at 11:33 am |
    “I heartily hope you lose, and lose badly.

    Perhaps that will serve as the wake up call needed for your deluded leadership and members to realise they are heading for electoral melt-down?”

    I suppose you must hope we lose badly as if, (hopefully, when) we win it will show that your predictions of electoral meltdown are wrong and that it is you who are deluded.

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