What’ll be the impact of Cameron’s by-election move?

What’ll be the impact of Cameron’s by-election move?

Oldham E & Saddleworth result – general election Party Votes % Change on 2005
Phil Woolas Labour 14186 31.9 -10.7
Elwyn Watkins Lib Dem 14083 31.6 -0.5
Kashif Ali Conservative 11773 26.4 8.7
Alwyn Stott BNP 2546 5.7 0.6
David Bentley UKIP 1720 3.9 1.8
Gulzar Nazir Christian Party 212 0.5 0.5

Are the blues being given permission to vote yellow?

The big overnight Old & Sad story is a report from Melissa Kite in the Sunday Telegraph saying that David Cameron personally asked party activists in the seat not to campaign too hard in order to help his coalition partner, the Lib Dems.

As can be seen from the general election above the constituency is very much a three-way marginal that was won by Phil Woolas on less than a third of votes cast only 103 ahead of Elwyn Wilkins – the man who was to take the former Labour immigration minister to court.

But the Tories were not that far behind and must have been in with a fair chance had they mounted a robust campaign – a move that could have had big consequences for the coalition. Cameron has apparently decided that beating Labour is the key objective and his statements on Friday are just about as far as he can go in suggesting that his party’s supporters should vote tactically.

So will Tory voters take the implicit guidance from their leader and will enough of them switch on January 13th to ensure a yellow victory?

My guess is that the support of the Asian communities that so helped Kashif Ali in May will probably not take the hint but that quite a proportion of others Tory voters will. Will that provide Watkins with sufficient support to do it?

Until now the main campaign issue that has been kept alive by the Woolas legal appeals has been the manner of Labour’s campaign in May. That was always going to be difficult to sustain but now the Cameron comments have developed into the key narrative – making it more of a challenge for Labour to switch this into a referendum on the cuts.

I now assess Labour’s chances at 60% to 40% for the Lib Dems. This makes the 9/2 against the Lib Dems that’s available from several bookies very tasty.

Mike Smithson

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