14 January 2011


Labour's victory in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election was hardly a surprise, though it was more emphatic than I expected. But a few things are worth noting:
  1. The result is a reminder that a political party is not always tainted by the shaming of one of its MPs. It's true that Phil Woolas was shamed for over-vigorous attack campaigning rather than fingers-in-the-till – and to my mind was far too severely punished – but that augurs well for Labour, if it selects a clean candidate, in the forthcoming Barnsley Central by-election, brought about by the resignation of Eric Illsley over expenses fiddling.
  2. Even though Labour won, the willingness of voters who supported the Tories at the general election to switch tactically to the Lib Dems – which resulted in the Lib Dem candidate retaining the share of the vote he won last May – is a little worrying for Labour. It suggests that the party is vulnerable to negative tactical voting in the (few) seats held by the Lib Dems where it came second in 2010.
  3. It is impossible to tell how the by-election would have turned out under the alternative vote – the electoral system hardly anyone wants that is to be the subject of a referendum in May. But Labour opponents of AV have a point when they say that the pattern of Tory to Lib Dem tactical voting yesterday, along with the showing of UKIP, suggests that the result might just have been a narrow Lib Dem victory.

No comments: