My six takeaways from Labour’s sensational win in Oldham

My six takeaways from Labour’s sensational win in Oldham

The default assumption when parties talk about “internal polling” should be that they are lying

The assumption that Oldham’s Tory voters would switch to UKIP was wrong

It has often been said that of all party supporters followers of the blue team are least likely to vote tactically and this was seen again last night. The idea that a large slab of the 19% in the seat at GE2015 would move to UKIP simply didn’t happen and this is not good news for UKIP in similar seats.

Having a good by-election candidate makes a big difference

There’s no doubt that Labour’s Jim McMahon in Oldham played a huge part in his party’s success. He is (about to be was) leader of Oldham council and comes over as a fluent and highly able politician. He also appears to be highly competent which is a quality that voters value. He was a backer of Liz Kendall in Labour’s leadership election and is on a very different part of political spectrum than Corbyn.

The Lib Dem “fightback” still has a long way to go

This was the first by-election since 2013 when the LDs ran more than a token campaign and the party had high hopes of retaining its deposit. That their vote remained at the general election level will be disappointment. It looks as though they got squeezed in the effort to impede UKIP.

Coming over as a sore loser isn’t wise

UKIP’s reaction to the result overnight came over very badly. Voters don’t like sore losers and the UKIP leadership didn’t do themselves any favours. The great model for what you do when the result is not as you would have liked was Michael Portillo at Enfield in 1997. His demeanour that night won him many friends.

New procedures for handling postal votes make it much harder to predict elections

Ahead of GE2015 election administrators were given new guidelines about the handling of postal votes. The aim was to make it more difficult for the party counting scrutineers to get any idea of how the election was going before polling day. What happened before was that it was often possible to get sight of the ballot forms themselves when the postal vote envelopes were being opened and the details verified. Skilled party scrutineers used to get a very good sense of the direction of voting and that information could sometimes seep out even though that was a criminal offence, Certainly party HQs were generally in the picture. That has now changed.

Mike Smithson

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