Is this the group that will destroy LD hopes?
Labour has already drawn attention to the decision by the Liberal Democrats to break with tradition and move the writ for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. The effect of the timing was to seemingly disenfranchise up to 1000 students not yet returning for their studies. Cunning manoeuvre? Yep. New politics? Not exactly. However it is another group of voters that should be causing the Lib Dems greater anxiety in the by-election.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the constituency has 12,000 public sector workers, representing 1 in 4 of the constituency’s workforce. This is a huge part of the electorate currently feeling bruised by the government and fearful of their job prospects.
In the last week alone the GMB union reports that 800 redundancy notices were dished out by Oldham Council at the start of the New Year â€“ just days before the big vote. It is reasonable to expect a shift in their voting intentions since May. How many of those affected will be inclined to vote for a coalition party right now? GMB canvassing intelligence suggests very few.
For everyone who has received their redundancy notice, there will be many more that are increasingly anxious about their job in the year ahead or know someone in their family who is affected.
If you look closely at the figures of public sector workers then 8,800 of Oldham East and Saddleworthâ€™s electorate are women occupying a range of roles at risk. This is bad news for both Nick Clegg and David Cameron’s candidates
Firstly lollipop ladies and careworkers versus Government Ministers and bankers represents a very one-sided contest for public sympathy. However this has the prospect of hurting the Lib Dems the most. At the last general election women were more likely to vote Lib Dem than men 26%: 22% and so represent a greater number of their recent supporters. The Liberal Democrats have challenged Labour for many public sector votes in the past but are now vulnerable.
Labour members wisely chose a female candidate for Oldham East and Saddleworth with experience in the NHS and she appears ideally placed to capitalise on this disaffection.
How worried public sector workers vote in this by-election could make a significant difference to the outcome. There should be a bigger worry for Coalition Ministers. Unless the UKâ€™s private sector swiftly creates comparable jobs for women whoâ€™ve worked in the public sector, they could well remain an electoral problem for them long after this particular contest has finished.
HenryG Manson is a Labour activist in the North East and a regular contributor of PB guest slots