January by-election in Oldham East & Saddleworth (but we can win before Christmas)

Item: The by-election team in Oldham East & Saddleworth have confirmed that Phil Woolas’s judicial review judgement won’t be given this week.

Item: According to Oldham Council, the last date in 2010 they can run a by-election is December 16th.

Item: Students of election law will already have calculated that the writ for a by-election on December 16th would have to be moved this week.

The result? We’re looking at the election being held very early in January.

I’ve written before about how by-elections campaigns have become shorter in recent years. Oldham East & Saddleworth will be a longer campaign – similar to the length of the 1995 Littleborough and Saddleworth campaign, which Chris Davies won.

Helping run front of house on that campaign, with the legendary Pat Wainwright, was immense fun – especially when we won! Fifteen years on we have the chance to repeat that – and in a by-election which, just as in 1995, will be important in setting the political scene for the next year. Winning elections in our own areas in May or at other times in the next few months will be easier the better we do in Oldham East & Saddleworth.

A longer campaign will give Elwyn Watkins and the party the opportunity to speak to more voters on the doorstep and to really get our messages across. A longer campaign has helped us pull off important victories in the past – most notably Eastbourne and Brent East.

But a look at the calendar also throws up a problem: if people leave it until January to help, there will be hardly any days left to campaign. The team members I’ve spoken to this morning are very clear that this is an election that has to be won before Christmas. That gives us all four big action weekends between now and the Coming of Santa.

Obligatory plug: the HQ address is on Elwyn Watkins’ website. The team would welcome a visit this weekend and any and every weekend before Christmas.

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28 Comments

  • Rob Easthope 24th Nov '10 - 8:40pm

    I couldn’t agree more, I don’t know the exact dates since I’ve been away from the campaign for a few days but we’ll have to win the postal vote before Christmas.
    If anyone is thinking about waiting until January then please consider the feasibility of winning this thing in less than ten days after the New Year.

    Come to Oldham, it’s fun, the campaign is going great, and Saddleworth will beautiful in the Christmas snow! What more do you want?

  • Will Nick be campaigning on the ground in Oldham ?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Nov '10 - 12:16am

    Well, I gather he was advised by the police not to show himself in central London today for his own safety’s sake, so that may be problematical.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Nov '10 - 12:35am

    “What more do you want?”

    I’m tempted to say, “A party worth supporting in the first place,” but let’s just look at the opinion polls instead.

    On a uniform swing projection based on the latest YouGov poll (40-40-9), the state of the parties in Old and Sad would be:
    LAB 42% CON 29% LD 17%

    If instead of a uniform swing the estimate was based on the finding that Lib Dem support is only 37.5% of what it was in May, then the LD figure would be 12%.

    Either way, the indications are that the Lib Dems are a mile away even from retaining second place. Of course unexpected things happen in by-elections, but the overwhelming evidence from local by-elections is that Lib Dem support in Labour-held areas is dropping far more sharply than elsewhere.

    Perhaps the coalition cheerleaders – who give every impression of hating Labour even more than the Tories do – should be campaigning for Lib Dems to support the Tories tactically?

  • Liberal Neil 25th Nov '10 - 10:03am

    @AAS Perhaps you can cite other parliamentary by-elections where the result was accuarately predicted by applying national poll ratings to the previous constituency result?

  • I’m no psephologist but I would find it extremely odd if all Parties and some of the pollsters did not conduct thier own polling in Oldham soon enough.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Nov '10 - 10:36am

    Liberal Neil

    Read it again.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Nov '10 - 11:46am

    “I’m no psephologist but I would find it extremely odd if all Parties and some of the pollsters did not conduct thier own polling in Oldham soon enough.”

    Yes. I think it’s very surprising that there have been no published polls yet. Obviously what the party desperately needs is a poll showing it in second place, but I think that would be extremely surprising based on the national picture.

  • Anthony Aloysius St
    “Of course unexpected things happen in by-elections, but the overwhelming evidence from local by-elections is that Lib Dem support in Labour-held areas is dropping far more sharply than elsewhere.”

    In fact analysis of over 150 principal council by-elections since May shows that it is precisely in seats like Oldham East and Saddleworth where we are doing well. (see the Birkdale Blog Analysis: http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2010/10/lib-dem-by-election-results-continue_31.html )

    In council by-election seats where we have a chance of winning we have generally done very well – often seeing a massive switch of Conservative voters over to Lib Dems.

    Based on my own visits to Oldham with colleagues from Southport in the last 2 weeks I think there is every chance of the same thing happening there – if we put in the work!

  • Simon Shaw,

    “In council by-election seats where we have a chance of winning we have generally done very well – often seeing a massive switch of Conservative voters over to Lib Dems.”

    That is true, and there is a paralell from recent history. During the Wilson/Callaghan government of 1974/79 the national opinion polls put the Liberal Party in single figures for most of that period, and there was a string of Parliamentary byelections where Liberals came fourth behind the National Front. There were two exceptions. Firstly, Penistone, where a local councillor, David Chadwick, took a strong third place. Secondly, Edge Hill. In Penistone and Edge Hill the Liberals had strong local support, in most of the rest they were nowhere.

    Oldham East & Saddleworth has a number of imponderables. Will it make a difference that Woolas is not the candidate?In 1979, the media pundits were assuring us that David Alton’s support was basically an anti-vote against Sir Arthur Irvine, and with Irvine gone it would vanish. If there is an anti-Woolas vote in Oldham, will Woolas’s absence neutralise it, or will it live on and go to Elwyn Watkins, just as the anti-Irvine vote survived Irvine’s demise and went to David Alton? Then there is the local Moslem community and the extent to which Woolas’s behaviour has angered its members. Will Moslems come out and vote for a party that stirred up hatred against them for electoral advantage? I don’t know, but we will soon find out.

    Of course, it would help if the “coalition” came to an end and Clegg resigned before the vote takes place. But we may have to wait a month or two longer for those events to unfold.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Nov '10 - 9:27pm

    “In council by-election seats where we have a chance of winning we have generally done very well – often seeing a massive switch of Conservative voters over to Lib Dems.”

    But of course, it’s precisely the “chance of winning” that is in question, so that’s rather a circular argument.

    I thought when we discussed this previously you admitted that the party was generally doing worse in local by-elections in Labour-held wards? God knows there’s no shortage of examples.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    You are, of course, aware that in May, the Lib Dems won over 75% of the Council seats in the constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth?

    I think we can both agree (for once!) that most of Oldham East and Saddleworth is exactly the sort of territory where Lib Dems are currently doing very well in by-elections.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 25th Nov '10 - 11:34pm

    Simon

    “I think we can both agree (for once!) that most of Oldham East and Saddleworth is exactly the sort of territory where Lib Dems are currently doing very well in by-elections.”

    Whatever gives you that idea? That’s your view; it’s not mine at all.

    However, if you are saying that based on your interpretation of local by-election results you expect the Lib Dems to do “very well” in this by-election, I’ll be quite happy to view it as a valid test of your theory. For the record, my expectation, based on the opinion polls, is that the Lib Dems will come nowhere close to winning the seat, but will probably drop into third place (though they may not fall as far as the straight projections I mentioned above would indicate).

    I think that’s a pretty generous offer, considering that Lib Dems have historically outperformed the opinion polls very strongly in seats where they’ve started in second place. Do you accept it?

  • I think this exchange ignores one important point. Although the Conservatives will undoubtedly put up a candidate, I have no doubt that the instructions from Central office will be to do the bare minimum and we will not see any Tory cabinet ministers tramping the streets of Oldham and Saddleworth in January. This time the Conservative voters are up for grabs because they will see it as the Coalition v Labour.

  • TheContinentalOp 26th Nov '10 - 8:53am

    Not very keen at all on the current Lib Dem leadership and the direction they are taking in Government, but I honestly believe that if justice is done then Elwyn Watkins will be taking his rightful place in Parliament – where he should have been in May.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Nov '10 - 12:01pm

    Well, the question still remains, however many comments are removed by the moderators.

    Will Simon Shaw accept this by-election as the acid test of his theory based on local by-elections? In a comment since removed, he expressed strong disagreement with my view that the Lib Dems were likely to drop into third place. So presumably he will be agreeable to making that the criterion. Is he?

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    Do you really not understand that most of Oldham East and Saddleworth does not fall into the category of strong “Labour-held areas”?

    Liberal Democrats won over 75% of the council seats in the constituency in May and 100% of them the previous time (in 2008). In 2008 Labour had dismal results in the majority of the wards.

    And why would Oldham East and Saddleworth not be a valid test of electoral support? It will be so in exactly the same way as the 150+ council by-elections there have been since May, which you have repeatedly said “prove nothing”.

    In those council by-elections Lib Dems have done extremely well where we “have a chance” and pretty badly in strong Labour areas. Your really can be amazingly inconsistent.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 26th Nov '10 - 6:18pm

    The question is – for the third time – will Simon Shaw accept this by-election as the acid test of his theory based on local by-elections?

    If he really thinks my expectation of a third place is so absolutely ridiculous, why should there be such a big problem in just saying “yes”?

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    Why don’t you read what I said?

    I very clearly said that I regard the result of the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election to be a much better indicator of the true state of public opinion than some rather dubious opinion polls.

    Similarly I regard the (mostly) very good Lib Dem performance in 150+ council by-elections as being a good indicator as well.

    As I recall it you are the one who has consistently pooh-poohed by-election results as an indicator. Are you coming round to my way of thinking, at last?

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    And if you want a prediction of the result (and I must admit that I have the advantage of having been canvassing in Oldham over the last 2 weeks – which I assume you haven’t) it is this:

    Lib Dem 35% to 42%
    Labour 35% to 42%
    Conservative 14% to 18%

  • http://andrewhickey.info/2010/11/25/why-i-will-not-be-helping-in-the-old-sad-by-election/

    Were the above comments better known, I wonder how many would still be willing to brave the cold for the man?

  • Dave Smithson 27th Nov '10 - 7:30pm

    This is a by-electon we CAN win and for those who are sat at home in their warm armchairs making predictions without having yet visited the seat to help the team I will personally buy you dinner if you get here before Xmas!

  • Phil Renold 4th Dec '10 - 6:58pm

    I was Elwyn’s Agent in the General Election and am doing the same thing this time round. I was also a witness in the Election Court when Woolas’ side chose not to challenge our Election Expense returns.

    The core team from outside have performed incredibly and the very strong local party understand only too well how important this by election is for us Liberal Democrats. This has been despite some very unpleasant weather.

    Please come and help. They by election will almost certainly be on 13th January, not on 3rd February, as Labour spin is trying to suggest.

    The message on the doorstep is incredibly strong. I know that this is what you always hear but in this case it is true.

  • G. Hancocks 9th Jan '11 - 4:42pm

    You should see the brilliant cartoon of you lot in this weeks Private Eye. It shows a teacher with a black board “this part used to be called the Whigs. What are they called now?” Answers back from pupils “liars” “patsy’s” “wankers” “C****” “tossers” “two faced hypocrites”. How I laughed! I have also given a £25 donation to the Oldam East and Saddlewworth Labour Party today in your name. How I loathe Fibdems….I can’t believe hopw I was over conned into boting for you bunch of closet tories.

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