A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, January 14, 2011


My personal input into the Oldham East & Saddleworth campaign was limited to phone canvassing as my legs are not yet recovered enough from my neurological illness in 2009 for me to do doorstep campaigning - a goal set with my physios is to be able to walk and write on a clipboard at the same time, hopefully by this May's elections.

However, the phoning was enough to tell me that the constituency is still as tricky a one for Labour as its predecessor, Littleborough & Saddleworth, was when I was up there for the 1995 by-election. It just isn't for the main part natural Labour territory and has pockets of extremely passionate and tribal Lib Dem support which are deep-rooted in a way uncommon outside the far South West.

In this context for Debbie Abrahams to get a majority higher than we had in the seat in the 1997 landslide is a triumph and a massive tribute to the organisational skills of Labour's North West and national staff and volunteer activists, huge numbers of whom have been out in appalling weather conditions.

It's a victory of immense tactical significance as it provides momentum as we head towards the May polls in Scotland, Wales and local councils.

But we need to be careful to stay sober about its wider strategic significance.

I don't see this as a big way marker on the route to victory like Dudley West or Wirral South were in the '90s. OE&S is too idiosyncratic a seat - the next General Election will be won in Con vs Lab marginals and OE&S is a rare Lab vs LD fight (though if Cameron hadn't switched off his machine to help Clegg it should have been a three-way marginal).

Cameron's vote slump (with apparent Tory switchers direct to Labour, as well as to the LDs and UKIP) provides a political problem for him as his own rightwingers will view him as having betrayed grassroots campaigners in order to try to help Clegg.

The willingness of Tories to vote tactically for the LDs, and of the two parties to collude on where they put up a fight, is extremely worrying from a Labour point-of-view.

We need to be careful not to let euphoria at one good win stop us from making the comprehensive policy and strategy review that is the appropriate response to getting thumped to a 29% defeat in the General Election.

And we need to note that the LDs were still competitive in a target seat for them even when bumping along at 7-9% nationally - they are not a wholly dead parrot yet.

This is the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sensible comments, Luke. The Guardian for one is totally misreporting this. If it really was 'anger at the Coalition' the margins would have been far greater, as would the turnout (which was worryingly low given what's been going on since the GE).

11:41 am, January 14, 2011

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Remember The general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in 20th Century politics, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil Kinnock to be consistently, if narrowly, ahead.

Nearly every one thought Labour would win in 92, as the Tories were at their worst, this time they have Lib/Dem allies to stitch us up, so its going to be much harder to win at the general election, but so far its encouraging to have the odd win.

12:04 pm, January 14, 2011

Blogger Baz said...

And the Labour vote actually went up!

12:08 pm, January 14, 2011

Blogger Alasdair Ross said...

the result is a great lift for all Labour activists before the May Election, coupled with the great win in Cornwall and a large increase in our vote in a rural Norfolk seat shows that we are opn the up, and though harder times may be ahead, the timing of these wins is a great boost. For the Tories, it could lead to the Right further attacking Cameron, with supporters moving to UKIP and others (selfish) looking to electoral pacts with the Lib Dems - just to keep their own seats.
The Lib Dems will get some benefit as they will now believe they can gain votes off Tories- to keep Labour out , similar to when they used to get Labour supporters vote for them to keep the Tories out.

1:06 pm, January 14, 2011

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still think the party will need a new leader before the next general election if success is to be maintained. Ed M is lacking appeal in marginal areas, too North London professional politician, a bit oily and too gaff prone.

However, it looks like the better choice of brother is off onto the 'jobs outside politics' gravy train and likely to turn his back on the whole scene.

1:37 pm, January 14, 2011

Anonymous Toby Chopra said...

An very accurate analysis Luke. But the main thought I have been left with this morning whether this is the final nail in the coffin of the AV yes vote.

I've supported real PR for years through Make Votes Count etc but I'm increasingly worried about where AV could leave Labour.

The OE&S result shows that the Tory and (remaining) Liberal voters, egged on by the parties themselves, are willing to switch votes to each other to try and keep Labour out.

Under AV, they could well encourage (either overtly or covertly) a 1-2 ticket and kill us all over the country.

Yes, the principle of PR should come ahead of party politics, but AV isn't real PR anyway, and it could end up like another Tory-Lib gerrymander.

It pains me to say it given I've waited for voting reform all my life, but this by-election result seriously makes me think about voting no. :-(

3:09 pm, January 14, 2011

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Maybe you could list EM's "gaffes" then?? I seem to have missed them :-)

12:40 am, January 15, 2011

Anonymous eastender said...

One thing worth pointing out is that labour "won" all the council seats except Saddleworth North on Thursday night. Given that at the moment there are only 3 labour councillors in the constituency this was a fair achievement. This points to the possibility of real success in May not only in Wales & Scotland but in English local elections

10:32 am, January 15, 2011

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No good having a booming lot of wins and high lead and then something brings it back down to Earth!

This must be sustained and consistent.

More anti worker employment laws are coming out, such as, removing a workers right to do to an I-T from 1 year to 2. Surely most people don't want this, its hard enough as it is now?

11:21 pm, January 16, 2011

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 12:40AM

Well, as my old form master oft said "You should have paid more attention, boy!"

Presumably you agree with the North London professional politician and oily bits.

9:14 am, January 17, 2011

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ED not helping by bashing the Unions for proposing industrial action on the Royal wedding day-Who cares about all that crap and hype over the Royals, its time we saved money and got rid of the Hang over Monarchy!

ED needs to bring out policies not bash Union Members!

8:30 pm, January 18, 2011

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous 8.30 18 January 2011:

According to the Socialist Unity website (17 January), the question of a strike on Royal Wedding day has not even been discussed in the unions.

I don't know what the truth is here, but Ed Miliband should certainly not follow false or dodgy premises. If he does, then he will run into serious problems.
If he challenges them, then he will be so much the stronger.

5:24 pm, January 19, 2011


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