Tim Farron writes… Oldham proves rumours of the Lib Dems’ death have been greatly exaggerated

Last night, at 3am, I got to do the job of telling everyone how well we did in Oldham despite the fact that we lost… I’m aware that there are few things more clichéd than a politician who loses an election and makes this statement, but in our case it’s actually true. This result provides a good stepping stone towards the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and English council elections.

In Elwyn Watkins we had first class candidate and I am hugely impressed by the way he has handled this by-election and everything that lead up to it. By taking on Phil Woolas and challenging his dirty campaign, Elwyn made a significant leap in the fight towards cleaning up politics for good and for that we should all be grateful.

The election in Oldham East & Saddleworth has been the perfect opportunity for us as a party to come together after what has been, let’s be honest, a very difficult few months. Vast numbers of volunteers descended on Oldham to lend a hand from across the country and many more who could not make it to Oldham, got involved in other ways from telephone canvassing to addressing envelopes!

It was great to see Nick out rallying the troops and walking up and down the icy lanes to speak to voters and deliver leaflets, as well as many of our fantastic team of ministers joining the ranks, such as Scottish Secretary Michael Moore – who got stuck in to the polling day knock-up yesterday getting our voters out to the polling stations! Never before has a by-election been more cathartic and unifying for our party.

I’m gutted for Elwyn that he didn’t win, I really am. He showed true spirit as a candidate in a very tough battle and worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known. However looking back over the last few months, who would have given us any odds at all of actually increasing our percentage of the vote?

It’s right to congratulate Debbie Abrahams and the Labour Party, but we must also be proud of the fight put up by Elwyn, Hilary Stephenson and their outstanding campaigns team, as well as being proud of one another for what we achieved in Oldham. And let’s not forget, the last time a Government party made a by-election gain was in 1982 amid the chaos and fear of the Falklands War, so unless we had persuaded some far off country to invade British territory we were always going to be up against it!

So, the rumours of our death have indeed been exaggerated – we have proved that in Oldham. I for one am still extremely proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats, who for the first time in over 65 years have the opportunity to make Government policy.

* Tim Farron MP is president of the Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Mike(The Labour one) 14th Jan '11 - 6:10pm

    +0.3% wasn’t it, after the Tories plummeted some 13%. A huge amount of Lib Dems voters were Tory tactical voters. Your party survives as long as the Tories need it to, that’s all.

  • A masterful piece of post poll revisionism and I wouldn’t expect anything else – I know a few party members who are coming to quite different interpretations of why this seat was lost to labour however…

  • It wasn’t lost to Labour. It was a Labour hold. Yes, the LD would have liked and perhaps even expected to win it in a historical by-election, but even if the party are spinning the result for all they are worth, so are Labour, neither interpretation is great, and from the simple position of proving that, even discounting votes gained from the tories, the party’s position was far better than predicted in national polls. That is a fact. It can be subjected to all sorts of caveats, but that simple, positive result remains true.

    Given the national position of the party, being the governing party in a by-election and so on, it was a reasonable result, if not a great one.
    ‘A masterful piece of post poll revisionism and I wouldn’t expect anything else’
    …from any party. Unfortunately just part and parcel of politics; the real test of support will come later, and no side can take too much away from OES.

  • I may post at greater length on the OES result, but I think it’s important to pay tribute to Elwyn Watkins.

    Let’s not forget that his determination has set a benchmark for proper behaviour which was overdue, and removed Mr Woollas from office for his misdemeanours. It is a shame that the ‘byelection’ [technically I suppose it is not a byelection] could not have been held in the political context of May 2010 when Elwyn would probably have won.

  • matthew fox 14th Jan '11 - 6:52pm

    Being bailed out by Tory voters is not a measure of success.

    Last night was a bad result for Lib Dems, they have turned off Labour voters, and are beholden to people who voted for Thatcher, Major, Hague, Howard and Cameron.

    Nick Clegg will stay the course, and be greeted as a liberator.

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Jan '11 - 7:03pm

    Lot of time for Elwyn Watkins. He would have made a very fine MP. Oh for more Elwyn Watkins and fewer Cleggs..

  • Being proud of heavily loosing a seat people were calling a marginal is a sign that you now have to accept the realities of “the new politics” You know that you are entirely beholden to the tories, if and when they decide to take you out it becomes a totally different situation. You are not really the party of government, but nor can you claim to be the opposition and benefit from the protest vote, so you are squeezed. Apart from party loyalists it is hard to see why anybody would vote for you in any seat where the conservatives or labour are the likely winners, you can no longer take a seat from anybody and when the big boys in blue are confident enough to turn on their junior partners, as you know they will, you will be obliterated. You have brought this upon yourself by your eagerness to not only prop up a rabid right wing government but appear to do so with such boyish glee.

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Jan '11 - 7:13pm

    “Our politics has always been about putting our idealism into well thought-out and debated policy”

    What the last few months has shown is that Lib Dem politics for many years has been about promising to write cheques you knew would never have to be cashed. Until now of course. Hence the “well thought-out policies” are now bouncing all over the place.

    Norman Lamb said last night “It’s easy to get cheap votes from opposing everything”. There speaks the voice of Lib Dem experience.

  • May 2010 Labour: 14,186
    Jan 2011: Labour 14,718.

    Labour’s majority increased because we lost about 3,000 votes (and the Tories lost about 7,000) from May.
    Not good, obviously.

    But, around 10,000 fewer votes for the coalition parties and Labour increased its total by….. 532.

    Previous Lib Dem voters staying at home, but not deserting in droves for Ed’s party, it would seem.

  • @crewegwyn who said: ‘It is a shame that the ‘byelection’ could not have been held in the political context of May 2010 when Elwyn would probably have won.’

    Wot, without Tory Votes?

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Jan '11 - 8:13pm


    ‘Labour type’. A typical tribalist response to criticism that shows you are a lot closer to New Labour than I’ll ever be.
    I’ve never been a member of any political party. I haven’t voted Labour at a single eleciton for more than a decade. Unless there is drastic change the same will apply to the Lib Dems.

  • @JohnM

    Personally I thought the LibDem low yellow-water mark was breaking the tuition fee pledges and not the wonderful result you just had in O&S according to Clegg and Farron.

  • @Cassie

    You appear to have forgotten to take into account the lower turnout which makes a crucial difference.

    But readingmost of the LibDem contributions on here it seems, as always, no one lost the election and Labour didn’t really win it – same old La La Land 🙂

  • @Tim Farron who said: ‘I for one am still extremely proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats, who for the first time in over 65 years have the opportunity to make Government policy.’

    Gawd you’re wearing well Tim – no doubt you’ll be claiming now that the abolition of the DRA is a LibDem policy which you’ve championed 🙂

  • Ian Patterson 14th Jan '11 - 8:37pm

    The by election whichnTim mentions was Mitcham and Morden, where Bruce Douglas – Mann (x lab) then SDP, resigned to be re endorsed. Sadly it was held in the post falkland tory glow and he lost it to Angela Rumbould. Which is why no mp (notwithstanstanding D Davis) has ever since done same thing.

  • PeterTaylor 14th Jan '11 - 8:55pm

    Why has that picture been included? Just because someone is wearing pink tracksuit bottoms, it does not mean that he can grab them!

  • After executing the usual 3rd party squeeze in past by-elections, I don’t remember people coming here to complain that we were ‘beholden’ to Labour votes.

    Reasonably good email – I’ve never been a huge Farron fan, but he’s not doing badly as President. It was a good result given the national circumstances (not to mention the ‘meltdown’ predicted by some in the LDV comment threads). Obviously we’d have liked to take the seat and Elwyn Watkins would make a great MP, but on the plus side a deeply unpleasant politician has been removed from parliament and Debbie Abrahams seems like a decent person so IMO both politics and the people of OE&S have benefitted from the by-election.

  • Peter Chegwyn 14th Jan '11 - 9:28pm

    Catherine: “It was a good result”. Eh? When Labour increased their numerical majority 30-fold on a lower turnout in a seat that, on paper, was our most winnable in a by-election for over 30 years? Sorry but it wasn’t a good result. Neither was it a disaster thanks to all those Tories voting tactically. For that we should be grateful. But in normal circumstances we would have won this by-election with a hefty majority.

    What worries me is the claim by many Lib. Dems. today that governing parties never win by-elections. Does that mean we should give up now and accept that we won’t win a single by-election in this entire Parliament? Our Party relies on by-election victories to gain momentum and boost morale. The next by-election in Barnsley may be a no-hoper but there’s rumours of one following in Leicester South, like Oldham East, a seat we have gained in a previous by-election. There’s less 3rd place Tory votes to squeeze there.

    Three other quick points. 1. Look at the local council by-elections yesterday, especially Camborne in Cornwall. Big swings to Labour. Not a good omen for Council elections in May. 2. Elwyn Watkins deserves enormous praise for the guts he displayed in taking Woolas to court and winning. He deserved a better result in the by-election. I hope the Party big-wigs will consider a suitable way of thanking and rewarding him for his courage and his devotion to doing what he believed was right. 3. It’s nice to see the Tories falling-out over their own (shambolic) campaign!

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Jan '11 - 9:30pm

    Predictably enough for people who’ve seen me comment on these things before: all this really proves is what I’ve always said, which is that nothing in UK politics changes very fast or very much.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 14th Jan '11 - 10:34pm

    1. Before the election we were all being urged to go to Oldham because it was winnable and a win there would be a real boost.

    2. A week or so before the election, the “spin” changed and we were fed a mantra to the effect that a close second would be a pretty good result (since when has there been a prize for second place?).

    3. Now the line is that we are in government and government parties do not win by-elections against opposition ones so that an increase in the Labour majority was only to be expected (see the second para of Peter Chegwyn’s comment above) and we actually did quite well to squeeze the Tory vote and marginally increase our share.

    Who are our leaders trying to kid: the electorate, their members or themselves?

    I suggest that we all remember 3 above and bear it in mind next time we receive exhortations to go and help in a by-election with supporting messages about “really encouraging canvass returns” , “a real buzz on the door-steps” and similar nonsense.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 14th Jan '11 - 10:46pm

    And , by the way, if coming second was the height of our ambition, why were we in such indecent haste to move the writ and cause the campaign to be waged over the Xmas/New Year holiday?

  • nowhere here do I say that this was a wonderful result… I hate losing, but everyone who turned up to help in the campaign knows that this has been a fantastic unifying process for us. We didn’t win, but we didn’t get anywhere near the panning that was predicted – and those of us who remember the dark post-merger days will testify that this result has the feel of those ‘turning the corner’ by-elections that gave us back our confidence, our purpose and our campaigning zeal. we won’t recover by practising denial… but neither will we recover by being determined to be miserable and cursing our luck. its time to make our own luck – and I’d say we’ve done that in OES.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 14th Jan '11 - 11:29pm

    Of course the LibDems are not dead or dying – what is happening that after years of trying to be all things to all people you are being exposed to real politics involving having to make hard choices and that has revealed that LibDems contain at least two different and ultimately incompatible strands of political thought (both of which have some coherence, intellectual respectability and a long history). Try as you might – the old politics will not work for the LibDems.

  • The worrying thing about this result for the Lib Dems is that the swing appears to be Con to Lab, but that’s highly unlikely, this looks like a pass the parcel result with Tories swinging to Lib Dems and Lib Dems swinging to Labour.

    The Lib Dems cede the centre left at their peril.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 15th Jan '11 - 12:45am

    “nowhere here do I say that this was a wonderful result”

    But you did try to persuade us “how well we did.” In fact you managed to attract the votes of just over 15% of the electorate – and the indications are that something like half of those may have been Tories voting tactically.

  • >You appear to have forgotten to take into account the lower turnout which makes a crucial difference.

    Er. no. I pointed out that there were 10,000 fewer votes roughly overall. Ie a lot of people stayed home this time. ie a lower turn-out.

    Labour’s vote held up, but didn’t really increase.
    The lower turn-out was our and Tory votes lost. Not an endorsement for Labour.

    >When Labour increased their numerical majority 30-fold on a lower turnout

    Again, what part of ‘Labour’s vote HELD up, but didn’t really increase’ do Labour supporters not get?

    Given the cuts and VAT rise etc etc, Labour would’ve been hoping, surely, for a massive boost?
    Ours vote dropping might be something for the regular commenters on here to gloat about, but it’s clear voters aren’t rushing to switch to or return to the Labour fold.

    Unless you think all the Labour votes were ex-LD votes. In which case, all May’s Labour voters stayed home?!

    Voters punished the government parties for the cuts etc. But couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the opposition. They did it by not voting at all.

    Best Labour can claim from this is their existing voters (plus a relative handful more) stuck by them and voted the same way as they did in May.

  • Emsworthian 15th Jan '11 - 9:00am

    The headline should read ‘ Byelection result-nobody dead’ Most contributors
    are mature enough to see that the Tory switchers saved us from embarassment
    and that the only real casualty was the hapless Tory candidate. Tim Farron should forget
    the spin and tell it how it is.

  • Matt (assuming it is the same Matt each time, which I accept is not necessarily the case) has posted a lot of very critical comments here in the last few months. I don’t actually agree with him that the 50,000 visitors last month reading through the comments would see a party in denial: sure, there are some articles and some replies which take a ‘my party right or wrong’ approach, but by and large what we have on LibDem Voice is a mature debate which is respectful of all opinion that is expressed. Where I think Matt is spot on is when he argues the necessity for the Liberal Democrats to continue to be an ideologically coherent third force in British politics (note ‘a’, not ‘the’ – I don’t want us to remain the third party). The danger of us ceding that position to the greens, or indeed to UKIP or the BNP as might well happen in the Barnsley by-election, is that ideology is yet further leached from politics and the electors cast their votes on the basis of charisma or slogans (which is why I hated post-debate ‘Cleggmania’). That is the path to Italian style demagoguery and neo-fascism.

  • The “big” story of this by-election (insofar as there is one) is that the Liberal Democrats were saved from humiliation by a very large number of normally Conservative voters, voting tactically to ‘stop Labour’ – a perfectly legitimate process. This illustrates a much bigger story, however, in that the Lib Dems and the Tories are now inter-dependant. As a Lib Dem voter at the last election this presents, for me, an outcome that I never, ever intended when I placed my ‘X’ on the ballot paper. I have therefore promised myself never to vote LIbDem (aka Tory) again. Endof.

  • Trevor Stables 15th Jan '11 - 9:39am

    We just have to hold our nerve and things will come right, policies take time to reach fruition and the experience of government will never allow people to say that a LIB DEM vote is wasted anymore. I have waited since 1979 to be able to be represented in government and now we have the chance to influence events. The old quote from Harold Wilson about a week being a long time in politics holds true, the period until 2015 and the next general election is a political eternity!
    My only negative thought is for the BBC who need to stop the pro labour bias!

  • Thank you Elwyn Watkins for successfully challenging some of the worst of Labour’s lies and bullying propaganda. Labour continue to use nothing more than spin but the fresh experience of an election court is very nicely in the air. This was a routine case of a 3rd party squeeze against the incumbent – some third party support shifted to the top two iin that specific contest. It happens in every election – get over it.

  • @DavidPollard

    Perhaps it would be more intellectually honest to have a single coalition candidate in a byelection. Why don’t you run that idea past the local Conservative and Lib Dem committees in Barnsley, ask one of them to stand down?

  • @tim farron

    I used to have some respect for Farron but now it is fast disappearing when he states: ‘its time to make our own luck’.

    What is he on about -is it playing bingo or betting a horse?

    Real political success is about responsible policies and principled MPs – sometimes that doesn’t bring power quickly and sometimes it can cause a temporary loss of power – but holding and defending the moral position is of vital importance to party members – and not just LibDems – and the public which, in the long-term, brings political success that people can be proud of.

    @Anthony who said: ‘looks like a pass the parcel result with Tories swinging to Lib Dems and Lib Dems swinging to Labour’.

    To carry on the lucky betting analogy a bit further – I reckon you’re on the money Anthony 🙂

    I’ve been unable to accept that Tories voted Labour in O&S – why would they? In fact a few were interviewed on telly and they readily admitted voting LibDem.

    I suspect that a lot of ‘left’ LibDems did switch to Labour because they were unhappy in general at the Parliamentary direction and more specifically because they didn’t want a LibDem victory with Tory-backing which could have brought a full-blown merger closer or at least a more comprehensive future electoral pact.

    These LibDems aren’t traitors and they haven’t yet left their party to join Labour or trek into the political wilderness. No, they are staying to fight for the soul of their party and I salute their courage and wish them every success.

    TV interviews showed that former LibDem voters switched to Labour this time – so I think there was a complex switching of votes going on and things are possibly not what they appear on the surface.

  • @David Pollard and would those two people prefer one party to represent the coalition then?

    There are anti coalition Tories and anti coalition Lib Dems around too, whom did they vote for? There was no “Coalition” box on ballot papers.

  • @David Pollard

    I find the argument that more people voted for Coalition candidates than for Labour more than a little fatuous. One could, and I don’t, point out that more votes were cast against Coaltion candidates than for them. So where does that take us? Precisely nowhere.

    And the reason is quite simple – the Tory and LibDem candidates were not standing as Coalition candidates – they were standing on the policies of their individual party’s.

    If the LibDem and Tory Parties wish to field a single Coalition Candidate in future elections that is a matter for them but it is almost bound to spark bitter debates in both parties.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 15th Jan '11 - 12:28pm

    If people want to join up with the Tories, then I wish they would do it and get it over with – and then we can all be given a clear choice about which side we’re going to be on.

  • Cassie

    I am sorry but that is really clutching at straws – it was a goodish result for Labour, a poor one for the LD and a ‘difficult to tell’ for the Tories

    We need to see more by-elections or the local elections to start having any sort of idea of the state of the parties. Until then we can take guidance from the polls.

    The PR is that the LD never stood a chance when if you look at dispassionately they should have been all over this seat, even when being in Government.

    And to these comments on the ‘Coalition’ having more votes. If you want to merge and set up single candidates please do it but please don’t play these pathetically intellectually bankrupt game with the numbers.

    The only conclusion you can make is that a lot of Tories did not vote LD in order to help them win!

  • “Norman Lamb said last night “It’s easy to get cheap votes from opposing everything”. ”

    Indeed , I couldn’t have been the only person who burst out laughing when he uttered those words.

  • “It was a very expensive victory – expensive for the lives of those 2000 employees that the Greater Manchester council ‘unofficially’ but publicly announced would be trashed the day before polling in order to get the Labour vote out in Oldham after blaming the government. Worthy of an investigation and a re-run”

    Oh dear, you really will have to get used to losing. In the years ahead you will be experiencing rather a lot of electoral disappointments.

  • @Cassie “Er. no. I pointed out that there were 10,000 fewer votes roughly overall. Ie a lot of people stayed home this time. ie a lower turn-out.

    Labour’s vote held up, but didn’t really increase.”

    The lower turnout generally means there’s a lower vote for each party across the board, this is usual in by-elections, Barnsley Central, which Labour should comfortably win, will almost certainly see Labour getting fewer votes and a reduced majority. I’m sure people will make PR gains out of that and say Labour’s support is in decline.

  • Why do we Lib Dems sit back and take the rubbish spouted by Milliband.. We must keep reminding the public that had his party won the election or had the highest number of seats the country would have been lead by Gordon Brown; the the man who was supposed to be the great hope for the economy and ended up by being a disaster.
    Yes there has unfortunately to be cuts to preserve our economy and our currecny. Would there have been a run on the pound had labour got in and did notheing to right the economy. Who was it that removed tax relief from pensions, allowed an uncontrolled expansion of universities … oh need I go on?

    Let us tell Ed (no policies) Milliband that he is a poor politician who only criticises and can not profer solutions.

    However the Governmant has made a serious blunder by not sortring out the bankers. This is a major reason we have lost support. There are plenty of graduates and others capable of doing the bankers job. Noone is indespensible. Let them go elsewhere, come on Vince do not fall for their bluff. Sqack them if y-they do not perform not richly reward for doing a job

  • One question I have for all those on this thread who are spinning this as not such a bad result for the Lib Dems: Do you seriously think that in May’s local, Scottish and Welsh elections Tories will vote for us in the same numbers as they did in Oldham East and Saddleworth?

    I think that’s highly unlikely, and I don’t see where else replacements for the votes lost to a resurgent Labour will come from other than the Tories.

    Take a look at the recent polling, especially in Wales and Scotland. Taken together with the national polling, it paints a pretty dire picture (especially in Wales):


  • @Styker

    Why are you so hot and bothered about Labour History and also our new leader. I would advise you for the good of Democracy to put your energies into saving your own party as one which has something to offer ordinary people in Britain who ain’t in the super-rich category

    I have no intention of dealing with your individual accusations as they have already been dealt with at length here and elsewhere but the general informed consensus on the pre GE economy is that it wasn’t all Labour’s fault. Yes there was things that they got wrong but they were also shipwrecked because of huge external factors and a principled decision to save the banks, keep people in work, and keep home repossessions to a minimum.

    Btw if the banks had gone down then Britain would have been bankrupted totally – if you don’t believe go and read the facts as I never waste my time attempting to open closed minds.

    But the issue of the banks is important because the real controlling power in this country is held by them and your leader Cameron has now made it abundantly clear that the light-touch approach towards them will continue.

    Cable is finished so don’t look to him as a saviour as he can no longer save himself and is only being kept by Cameron as a caged circus animal to provide amusement. At some stage he will be discarded.

    Oh I do agree with you that plenty of people can do the work of a banker – it’s not difficult. What they can’t do is join the elite club that actually holds the power and that will never change irrespective of the colour of the government.

    I realise that LibDems have difficulty in accepting these things because they have been so long out of power – well you are in government now and instead of tilting at Milliband windmills why don’t you tell your party to do something about the bankers.

    I will watch your progress with interest.

    I would warn that ominous storm clouds are starting to form on the horizon and a number of external factors appear to be growing which may well blow our economy off course yet again. It will be interesting to watch who the Coalition blames this time – won’t be the banks because they will be desperately needed by the Government – even if it was Labour – to alleviate what may be coming down the pipe.

  • @Andrew

    Poll info is interesting but what I am more interested in is how LibDems in Scottish Parliament are going to jump when campaigning on issues that have caused national problems for the LibDem party. Seems to me that no matter what direction taken they will be skewered by the SNP and Labour – the two main parties in Scotland by far.

    I don’t really know the Welsh position but I find it likely to be similar to Scotland with Labour and Plaid although I accept that the Tories do constitute a third force.

  • @Tim Farron

    “So, the rumours of our death have indeed been exaggerated – we have proved that in Oldham.”

    Of course you haven’t! What complacency. The Oldham by-election was a shoe- in for the Liberal Democrats: the sitting Labour MP and Shadow Cabinet member had been removed from his parliamentary seat by the judiciary; Labour’s majority at the last general election been just 103; Labour had been out of office for just 7 months after the worst election defeat (so you keep telling us) since the deluge. You were fielding a high profile candidate who had stood at the previous general election in 2010 whereas Labour’s candidate was selected just weeks ago.

    What happened? Labour increased its majority from 103 on a turnout of 61.2% in 2010 to 3,558 on a turnout of 48%. in 2011. I’ll repeat that for the psephologically challenged: Labour increased its majority X 35 when over 13% of the electorate in Oldham who voted last time stayed at home! This was an even better result for Labour than in 1997, its landslide year, when Labour polled only 3,389 over the Lib Dems on a massive turnout of 73.9%!

    In May 2010 the combined Lib Dem/Conservative vote was 25,856. But last Thursday it was down to 15,641, just 923 more than Labour. Yet had a single coalition candidate contested the seat last Thursday it’s almost certain Labour would still have won it because the general estimate is that a fifth of the Tories wouldn’t vote for a coalition candidate and neither would half of the Liberal Democrats. By the way, do you realise what a compliment you pay the Labour Party when you suggest that Labour can only be beaten if two parties combine to defeat us in every seat we stand in?

    And where did the missing 10,000 plus potential coalition voters go to do you think? I suggest that left leaning Lib Dems either came over to us or stayed at home because they couldn’t stomach your lies and support for pro-Thatcherite policies; and probably, natural Tory supporters either decamped to UKIP (whose vote went up from 2029 in 2010 to 2720 last Thursday), or the bulk of them stayed at home because they are angry at the visciousness of their own party’s cuts, or they are of the Tory right and perceive the Lib Dems’ ineffectual, unworldly policies to be unduly influencing and emasculating the Tory party in the context of the coalition.

    This was an astonishing result for Labour. No-one thought we had a hope in hell of retaining the seat, particularly over a short campaign in the depths of a harsh winter. It even rained on polling day, a traditionally bad omen for us, yet the Lib Dems couldn’t even restrict our majority just to the hundreds, let alone win. If you couldn’t trounce us in Oldham East and Saddleworth when your draconian, ideologically driven cuts haven’t even started to bite yet, where can you trounce us?

  • Norfolk mum 15th Jan '11 - 6:55pm


    What c**p! Celebrate by all means, but the bookies had Labour heavy favourites from the day the poll was announced.

    Farron is doing a good job saying the things that need to be said.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 15th Jan '11 - 8:34pm

    The announcement of the 2000 job cuts was made by Manchester City Council not Greater MAnchester as some here have been stating. Old & Sad does not fall within the area of Manchester City Council. Oldham Council, which is controlled by the Condems has yet to come clean on how many jobs they will cut – eventhough I would have thought that the matter would have been of great relevance to the electorate of Old &Sad. Perhaps a local LibDem would like to explain why such vital information was withheld from the electorate?

    Stunnell clearly broke the parlimentary purdah rules and has apologised for doing so.

    Yes of course all political parties try and use news and events to put their party in the best light, and to avoid putting themselves in a bad light. But perhaps before the LibDems resort to their usual games of throwing accusations around as a smokescreen – perhaps they should look into their own behaviour first.

    And then of course we have the example of Nick Clegg hiding his own changing views on the central question of deficit reduction from the electorate until afterwards.

    Anyone with half a brain can see that the LibDems are now in serious damage limitation mode

  • @John M – considering GMCC havent announced anything yet what you’re saying is technically libel

    It seems that we get more votes here than Ireland – and that pursuing everything time and again when the results not the one you wanted is a logical choice.- Dont talk such rubbish.

  • @JohnM
    They take the poor for granted and are covetous of the middle classes (or squeezed middle classes, Doctors and Dentists et al).

    hahaha you make a reasonable point there about Labour but to say this on the board of a party who has jumped into bed with the Tories (enemies of the poor, protectors of the privileged) is absolutely laughable. Its like saying ‘If you don’t trust the under-current of xenophobia in UKIP then switch to the BNP’!

  • >please don’t play these pathetically intellectually bankrupt game with the numbers.

    I wish people would read what others post in context of the whole.
    Bunch of Labour supporters on here were claiming that Labour support staying exactly the same as in May was a massive boost.
    They were playing ‘pathetically intellectually bankrupt games’ for sure, with percentages. THAT was all I was responding to. RESPONSE being a key word.

    EG “Labour increased their numerical majority 30-fold”.
    That reads to me like a boast that support for Labour is soaring. Which it didn’t.

    Labour support stayed the same.
    Lib Dem and Tory went down.

    Those are the numbers. No games. No spin. No boasts. Nothing intellectual. No claims on my part that it was good for us in any way (it wasn’t).
    Just the numbers.

    We lost support. You didn’t gain any.

    A low turn-out suggests a lot of people feel disenfranchised. Don’t want to vote for ANY party.
    Nothing for any party to crow about.

  • Cassie

    Low turnouts in by-elections are common. There was a 19.9% record low after the 97 election. The first by-election after the 79 election also had a 48% turnout. Did you use the same argument for Dunfermline which had a 12% lower turnout?

    Stop using facts out of context to make a point.

    This was a good result for Labour – not brilliant – but still good. It is difficult to tell where the Tories are as their vote was squeezed. For the LD it was a poor showing as they should have been all over this seat due to the context.

    It is right that Governments don’t often gain seats in by-elections but it is not often we have a formal coalition and a 3 way-marginal. You were only 103 votes behind!!!

    Stop pretending that the LD never thought they could win. If that was the case why move the writ yourselves? Mark Pack was also surmising on here that it would be a LD gain.

  • @Cassie who said: ‘A low turn-out suggests a lot of people feel disenfranchised. Don’t want to vote for ANY party.
    Nothing for any party to crow about.’

    I don’t accept this was a low turn-out for a by-election. I agree that the LP isn’t crowing abiout anything – it is warning. I must be watching and reading different things to Cassie because all I see and hear is LibDems and Tory crowing about how well the cuts are going and how great things are going to be in the future.

    If anyone was worrying about turn-out then holding a poll just after the festive season wasn’t a clever move – it may well have been less inclement weather in February and helped the poll and perhaps the electorate would have been able to see how well the Tory/Lib Dem cuts were doing and how much their lives were changing for the better lol.

  • >Ecojon: I must be watching and reading different things to Cassie

    You didn’t read the post on here I was responding to, then? The one I quoted again since?
    The SPECIFIC post, rather than vague, general, world-at-large views?
    The one that boasts: ““Labour increased their numerical majority 30-fold”.

    >bazsc. Low turnouts in by-elections are common.


    >Did you use the same argument for Dunfermline which had a 12% lower turnout?


    >Stop using facts out of context to make a point.

    My only point is (at the risk of boring people who actually GOT it the first time):
    We lost votes.
    Labour’s stayed the same.
    Turnout fell.
    Either a lot of our May voters stayed home. Or they switched to Labour and a lot of May Labour voters stayed home.
    Nothing for EITHER party to crow about.

    >Stop pretending that the LD never thought they could win.

    Stop putting words in people’s mouths. I’ve never commented on Dunfermline and I expected us to lose Oldham & Saddleworth. Parties in gvt usually get hammered in by-elections.

    >btw: Matt When those people do read through all the posts, I am sure all they see, is a party in denial.

    When new people read through all the posts, what they see is Labour supporters endlessly telling us how rubbish we are 😉

    “Labour increased their numerical majority 30-fold”.

    Station café table Saturday. 5.58pm. 75% Labour voters, 25% Lib Dem.
    Café table 6pm. 100% Labour voters. 0% Lib Dem.
    Labour had increased their majority. Despite the fact that turnout had reduced.

    There were still only three of them. I’d gone to catch my train.

  • @cassie

    I note, as usual, you dion’t actually address, let alobe answer, the specific points raided and go shooting off at another tangent.

    Your energy would be better directed in trying to save your party as it is in dire need of help – LP membetrs don’t wish to see a cente/centre left LibDem party being destroyed or becoming a centre right party or even being reversed into the Tories.

    This is the real issue and you have to decide where you stand – that is your decision and so it should be – but let’s recognise what is underway here and it ain’t anything to do with becoming lost in the minutiae of polling at O&D.

    It is a matter of principle and you have to decide and declare where you stand Cassie and if you would rather be a Tory than a socialist fine – your choice, your decision. I doubt if you are capable of actually giving a clear answer but who knows? However, I won’t hold my breath 🙂

    I don’t know if there is any connection between Cassie and Cassandra but my little knowledge in Greek mythology tells me that no one believed her prophecies and that seems par for the course.

    It’s also said that: ‘temple snakes licked her ears clean so that she was able to hear the future’ – well I reckon it’s time the snakes got to work again as I don’t think Cassie is hearing as well as she used to.

  • “This result provides a good stepping stone towards the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and English council elections.”

    It’s always a good sign when the arguments of your opponents make you laugh out loud – not in a partisan way, but in a caught off guard way 🙂 The quote IS comedy, it’s not politics. Does the writer have any notion of the liberal meltdown in Scotland?!

  • I’m afraid Mr Farron, I disagree. We must remember that there was a 5% swing to Labour in this seat. Such a swing if replicated nationally would see the likes of Sarah Teather, Jo Swinson, Gordon Burtwhistle all lose their seats.

    We must also remember the nature and uniquess of this by-election. This was a seat where the Tories were all but giving the Lib Dems a free run, and the Lib Dems successfully managed to convince the Tories that this was a straight fight between Lab and Lib. As a result, the Lib Dems benefited from significant tactical voting, where the Tories lost 13% of their vote. The Lib Dems managed to squeeze about 50% of the Tory vote – it lay at 26% in the May 2010 election. In other Lab-Lib marginals, the Tory vote is no where near as high, and thus there will be less Tory votes for the Lib Dems to squeeze. Moreover, it doesn’t consider what will happen in the Tory-Lib marginals, which there are much more of compared to Lab-Lib marginals. Here, there will not be any benefit from a tactical Tory vote – in fact most of these seats currently have large numbers of tactical Lab voters which is likely to unwind, for I think many Lab supporters will refuse to give the Liberals their vote even if it is only a two way contest. I think one needs to see a by-election in a Tory-Lib marginal and see what happens before Mr Farron can come to the conclusion that he has.

  • A first-time reader, ex-activist and ex branch chair.

    Lots of examining the entrails and near-abusive examination of examination of the entrails.
    Could we just accept the idea that the results are inconclusive, and accept as a working conclusion that things aren’t going as well as we hoped.

    Personally in despair
    Vince Cable chained up because he admitted, admittedly inadvisedly, antipathy to Rupert Murdoch.
    Ofcom recommends referral of said Murdoch’s bid to the competition commission.
    Tory (let’s face it) government ignores Ofcom and gives Murdoch the chance to try again
    Nick Clegg doesn’t seem to have done anything about it.

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