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Labour’s huge Oldham victory in context

by Sunder Katwala     January 14, 2011 at 8:23 am

Congratulations to Labour’s Debbie Abrahams who has won the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election with an increased majority in the party’s first by-election outing under Ed Miliband’s leadership.

The result is a disappointment for LibDem candidate Elwyn Watkins, following his successful court challenge to ex-Labour MP Phil Woolas.

Strikingly, Labour’s majority and vote share was higher than in the 1997 General Election. The Coalition parties saw their joint share fall from 58% to 44.7% (-13.3 on 2010). The swing from the joint LibDem and Conservative to Labour was 11.8%, which is similar to the current opinion poll standings.

This is the result for the major three parties (out of ten candidates).

Debbie Abrahams (Labour) 14718 42.1% (+10.2)
Elwyn Watkins (LibDem) 11160 31.9% (+0.3)
Kashif Ali (Conservative) 4481 12.8% (-13.6)

UKIP: 2029 (5.8%)
BNP 1560
Green 530
Monster Loony: 145
English Dems: 144
Pirate: 96
Bus Pass Elvis: 67

Labour majority: 3558
Turnout: 34930

Turnout at 48% in a by-election held in the first fortnight in January has been higher than most commentators anticipated.

The Liberal Democrats are taking consolation from holding their vote share up. But election expert John Curtice has cast doubt on the importance of this, given that it seems to have been achieved through the collapse of the Tory vote share. This, Curtice argues, is a weak indicator of how most LibDem MPs will perform against Conservative opposition.

Curtice has told the BBC “it is a night of quiet pleasure for Labour if not necessarily riotous celebration” and a worrying result for the Conservatives.

2010
Labour: 31.9
LibDem: 31.6
Tory: 26.4

Labour majority 103

The by-election majority is larger than the 1997 General Election result (despite the turnout then being 25 points higher).

1997
Labour: 41.7
LibDem: 35.4
Tory: 19.7

Labour majority 3389
Turnout 73.92%

2001
Labour: 38.6
LibDem: 32.6
Tory: 16.1

Labour majority 2726
Turnout 61.0%

2005
Labour: 41.4
LibDem: 33.2
Tory: 18.2

Labour majority 3590
Turnout 57.3%

The constituency was new in 1997 – and the results since can be found here.

Conservatives and the media are being left behind on public opinion

by Sunder Katwala     January 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

An 8 point lead for the Labour Party in one opinion poll is just one poll, though the party has good reasons to be confident about its prospects not only in Oldham East and Saddleworth on Thursday, but also in national elections in Scotland and Wales as well major local elections in four months time.

But this may tell us something about how the government is turning voters off – and about how most media commentary has missed how they have done so for most of the last six months.

“There is no alternative” isn’t working – and it will now have diminishing returns with people who aren’t core supporters of the government.
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We have to embrace our differences when opposing cuts

by Sunder Katwala     January 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Saturday’s first netrootsuk conference was an interesting attempt to bring people together to discuss the links between online and offline campaigning.

My central point was about the limits of marching-in-step unity give the scale of the diverse and plural coalition we will need. The event brought together hundreds of people, representing organisations and networks with the ability to mobilise many tens of thousands.
[links to round-up of coverage below]
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George Osborne talked tough on bankers but didn’t deliver

by Sunder Katwala     January 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

Not long ago, our Chancellor George Osborne was talking tough on the banks that caused the financial crisis.

When it comes to the Government and the banks, surely the public are entitled to ask why the Government talk tough and make promises, but then fail to deliver. As we wait to see bonus payments over the coming months, we will remember the Prime Minister’s promise that the era of the big bonus is over.

Osborne will naturally expect his comments to be remembered now that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he can do something about it.
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Clegg could make education fairer by taxing private school fees

by Sunder Katwala     January 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

The ‘pupil premium’ is a good idea about to be sacrificed on the altar of austerity.

The Government has failed to keep the promise in the Coalition Agreement that this pledge – intended to spend more money on disadvantaged pupils – would be funded “from outside the schools budget”. Instead, the Education Secretary Michael Gove has acknowledged that the ‘premium’ will be funded by redistributing money within a shrinking schools budget, which means that most schools will see their funding cut.

Ministers face an unenviable choice: do they risk a backlash from most parents, unhappy at seeing less money spent on their children, or do they let down the worst-off children, whom they pledged to help?
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Is Labour still unclear on what needs to change?

by Sunder Katwala     January 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Party leaders will never be in want of unsolicited advice. Ed Miliband rightly argues that a party which polled just 29% of the vote after 13 years in office should open everything to scrutiny, and begin a policy review from a “blank page”.

In rewriting the script, he should welcome more open debate, and disagreement too, wherever that is constructive. The leader must persuade his party to embark on a journey of change.
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More Libdems say Tory policies are a mess

by Sunder Katwala     December 22, 2010 at 8:45 am

The Telegraph has more revelations today of what LibDem ministers really think of the Coalition.

Ed Davey warns that the government’s changes to housing benefit would “put people below the breadline”, something which he calls “deeply unacceptable”.
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Blast from the past: when Michael Gove wanted to restrict and privatise education

by Sunder Katwala     December 9, 2010 at 8:45 am

Will the government’s fees hike put off poorer potential students? Many people have worried about that. But what about those who rather hope the fees hike will put potential students off?

Such as the current Education Secretary Michael Gove, if we are to judge by his views for the Times before entering Parliament back in 2003 – arguing that £21,000 or more in fees is “a bargain”, that anybody who is deterred is simply too stupid to go to a top university, and that the only vision for Britain’s universities he believes in is to privatise them.
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Labour Yes! campaign unites party on vote reform

by Sunder Katwala     December 8, 2010 at 8:40 am

The Guardian reports Labour leader Ed Miliband’s support for the launch of a Labour Yes! group which will campaign for Labour voters to vote Yes in the referendum on the Alternative Vote.

This confirms the party leader’s commitment, in his first conference speech as leader, to supporting a change in the voting system.
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What can Libdems and Labour learn from changing polls?

by Sunder Katwala     November 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

23% voted for the Libdems at the election in May. Around half that number currently say that they will vote for the party again in most polls.

The latest ComRes poll shows that remaining LibDems are equally divided over whether the cuts are too quick and too harsh, with most believing the government is failing in its promise to cut fairly. Conservatives are much happier with the government’s strategy. I look at the detail of still loyal LibDem opinion in a Next Left blog-post.

This suggests it could be useful to think about three different groups when thinking about what has happened to LibDem support in the last six months, and what it means for the future.
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