Thursday, 16 December 2010

Labour are the trend setters in OldE & Sad

Since Labour selected Debbie Abrahams to be their candidate for the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election there have been a fair few developments. Three parties have officially selected their own candidates and it looks like we have a date, albeit a controversial one!

They Conservatives have stuck with Kashif Ali, who was their candidate for this seat at the General Election. This selection wasn't exactly as surprise! The Greens have opted for Peter Allen, who received 1.8% of the vote for his party in the High Peak seat in May. But by far the biggest news is that the BNP leader Nick Griffin standing. Griffin ran a high profile campaign in the Barking constituency in the spring but he failed miserably in his attempt to oust Margaret Hodge (right). The BNP vote dropped from the previous election, which was a testament to Labour's campaign against the extremist party. Considering the reason for this by-election, and the recent history of Oldham, Griffin's presence will add yet another dimension to an already intriguing contest. As by-elections go, this isn't the most predictable!

The current list of confirmed candidates is as follows:


Debbie Abrahams (LAB)

Kashif Ali (CON)

Peter Allen (GRN)

Gregg Beaman (LBT)

Nick Griffin (BNP)

Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope

Nick 'The Flying Brick' Delves (OMRL)

Stephen Morris (ED)

Paul Nuttal (UKIP)

Elwyn Watkins (LD)

There are also strong rumours that the National Front and the Pirate Party will field candidates, but they yet to be confirmed. I'm sure we'll have a few more on top of that as well!

We are also a great deal closer to know the date of this by-election since the Liberal Democrats have broken convention by moving the writ. This task is usually undertaken by the party who will be defending the vacancy and Labour aren't exactly happy about the Lib Dems' conduct. They have good grounds to be angry too as the writ also sets the date of the by-election; 13th January. This means the residents of OldE & Sad will elect their new Member of Parliament in just four weeks time. Although this is about the same amount of time that an official General Election campaign is by-elections are usually given slightly longer. In practice, the timetable is shorter still as campaigning over the Christmas period is likely to be very light, or badly received. Mark Pack, of LibDemVoice, made the case for longer by-election campaigns a year ago.

"…shorter campaigns mean less time for candidates to put their cases and less chance for the public to hear from candidates. It also makes it harder for new people to break in as plausible candidates."

Of the three parties with a realistic chance of victory Labour are by far the most disadvantaged by the very short timetable. Elwyn Watkins has national name recognition following the court case and the Tories have stuck with their candidate from May. Debbie Abrahams has essentially got less than three weeks to convince the electorate she is the best candidate. This won't be the easiest task as they didn't know who she was this time last week!

The Liberal Democrats will justify their actions by pointing out that the seat has been vacant since early November, and the election was void so Labour don't actually hold it. They are technically right, but the massive advantage they gain from this date is hardly a coincidence. Of course, Parliament could reject the writ but this would just result in the seat remaining vacant until the end of this session. They've have been quite cunning really, and they shouldn't expect any favours from Labour in the near future…!

Update 1: Since this article the writ has been moved and the date has been confirmed as 13th January 2011.

Update 2: The Official Monster Raving Loony Party have had to change their candidate as Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope is unavailable during January. Delves contested the Crewe & Nantwich by-election in 2008 receiving 0.8% of the vote.


  1. Not only does it make the campaign pretty short, but it also means the election will be the week before the start of term for the local university... Lib Dems running scared of the student vote, perhaps?

  2. Despite denials on Radio 4 today, I fully expect a lacklustre Tory Campaign.

    It will be a trial for 2015, when to stop the ABL vote, I would not be surprised to see the most likely party to beat Labour to be given a free run by their Coalition partners.

  3. @Mr K: I think you're right. Their vote in May was an over performance, possibly due to the circumstances. There will be quite a bit of tactical voting. Plus, Ali isn't exactly charismatic; he'll struggle to grab any attention.

    @Tom: According to UKPR full time students make up 2.7% of the electorate in OE&S. Of course, this is far greater than the margin in May! But I don't think students are any less likely to be around on 13th Jan than 5th May.

  4. Pirate Party have confirmed their leader Laurence Kaye will stand.