The results of yesterday’s by-election in the UK parliamentary constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth (sometimes called, in reference to the depressed local economy, OldE and Sad) are interesting.
Despite the party’s horrific slide in national polls since entering the coalition government eight months ago, the Liberal Democratic candidate held about steady in vote percentage in the by-election, compared to the general election. Elwyn Watkins was the LibDem candidate in both of these elections.
Quite clearly, the steady vote percentage was a product of strategic (or “tactical”) voting by Conservatives, who lent a helping hand to the junior partner in the governing coalition. The votes for the Conservative, Kashif Ali, fell from 26.4% at the general election to just 12.8% in the by election.
It was not nearly enough to prevent Labour’s holding the seat, as Debbie Abrahams will be the new MP, with about a 10 percentage point victory, on 42.1%. At the general election, incumbent Phil Woolas had held the seat with a 31.9-31.6 result, winning by 103 votes. The by election was necessitated by a High Court invalidating the result due to illegal campaign tactics by Woolas.
In the also-ran part of the contest, the UK Independence Party and British National Party exchanged positions, with the latter finishing fifth this time. I guess that counts as good news, although the BNP still managed 4.5% and the two combined had around 10%. Nick “The Flying Brick” Delves of the Monster Raving Loony Party managed 0.4% and Pirate Loz Kaye got 0.3% Finally, let’s not forget David Bishop, running under the Bus-Pass Elvis label, who polled 67 votes.
Turnout was about 48%, compared to 61% at the general election.