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Lies, damned lies and the people’s verdict

The Lib Dems forced a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth, accusing Labour’s Phil Woolas of lying. It turns out that the public think the Lib Dems are the bigger liars, and have punished them accordingly. By winning 42% of the vote, 10% more than the Lib Dems compared with less than ¼% at the general election, in spite of mass tactical support for the Lib Dems by Tory voters, Labour and Ed Miliband have confounded their media critics.

Labour’s vote is up on the general election and its share is at least as high as it got in 1997, 2001 or 2005 (after allowing for boundary changes). Whilst the Lib Dem share held up, this was only because of tactical voting by Tory voters, encouraged by the obvious but failed attempt of the Tory leadership to help the Lib Dems to a respectable result in this by-election. The Tory vote collapsed but this is no basis for complacency – Tory support is holding up reasonably well in the national polls.

Debbie Abrahams, the new MP, pointed out that polling day was the anniversary of the formation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893, appropriate, she says because it was formed “when working people decided that the Liberals could not be trusted to represent their interests.” Spot on.

The full result is

Labour 14718 42.1%
LibDem 11160 31.9%
Conservative 4481 12.8%
BNP 1560 4.5%
Green 530 1.5%
UKIP 2029 5.8%
Other 452 1.3%

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