A Victoy that will bring more Relief than Joy

It’s over, Miliband is the way forward. The British people have lost all faith in the Coalition Government. As Ed says the people are disgusted by V.A.T. increases and broken promises and have turned to him to be their saviour. The evidence would appear to support this claim as the seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, with an electorate of 72,000 and an MP from the only major party not be in government, is the key indicator of the state of politics in the country today.

The Labour MP Emily Thornbury appeared on the Daily Politics Show revelling in the success of her party. Somewhere between branding the Oldham by-election result as “spectacular” and denying the Labour government’s role in the country’s financial disaster, she claimed that this was a “rejection of a terrible government.” It wasn’t. In fact if you add up the Coalition vote they polled 15,641 as opposed to Labour’s 14,718, but Cameron won’t be claiming this victory.

The result of this by-election was essentially honours even. It was not a great victory for Labour, it wasn’t as good a result for the Liberal Democrats as it appears, and it is not as poor as a 7,000 vote loss would appear for the Conservatives. The easiest way to demonstrate this is to look at each party in turn and my life’s work is to search for the easiest way to do anything.

Labour’s vote rose from last year’s election total of 14,186 to 14,718. A respectable rise of 500 but certainly not enough to suggest a massive populist shift back to Miliband’s crew and the turning of backs on the coalition. Labour held onto a seat they have held since 1997 and even the collapse of the party last year didn’t do enough to lose it. But a majority of 3,500 is a good one and it is a much needed result for Ed Miliband.

The Liberal Democrats were also under severe pressure going into the by-election. This is a seat that by rights should have been theirs. The results of Phil Woolas’ slanderous attacks on the party during the general election are unquantifiable but there were only 103 votes in it. An outright disqualification was called for by many, and had the by-election happened sooner this would have been a shoe in for Elwyn Watkins. But the tide has definitely turned against Clegg whose party have capitulated in the polls. This result appears to have kept the pressure at bay as they have retained a 31% share of the vote. But in actuality 3,000 votes have been lost and of the 7,000 that drained from the Conservatives, how many of them were tactical and reflect a political astuteness of voters? The Liberal side of the Government have escaped this one but the pressure is still on and political victories are required.

The Conservatives, as has been the case so often lately, have taken a back seat in the political sphere. Despite Cameron’s party being in charge and initiating a swathe of cuts they are under much less pressure than the other parties. Even to the extent that they can act charitably towards the Liberals. The Coalition is on rocky ground if the Lib Dems have nothing to gain from it, and whilst they are making an impact on policy making, back benchers and Liberal die hards are not keen on the alliance with the right. A result in Oldham was required and the Tories were shrewd enough to realise that an incredibly outside chance of winning a seat was not important enough to work for. Despite confusing claims to contrary, the appearance has been of a soft campaign going through the motions but not as pressing as it may have been. A loss of 14% of the vote would in other circumstances seem telling, but in this case was an easy burden to bear. Whilst their candidate Kashif Ali may not be best pleased, it will have bounced off Cameron.

The most telling statistic is the turnout. A General election figure of 61.2 per cent has dropped within a year to 48. This is a reflection of a loss of faith in politics and the people who practice it. The Liberal Democrats were at the forefront of a renewed interest and an atmosphere of change developed across the country. Nowhere would have felt it more than the constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth where the Liberal Democrats have been big players. As it was all that really happened was that 3,000 voters shifted from Labour to Conservative, yet the big turnout was endemic of a renewed vigour for voting. But this constituency has been flattened more than most since the Coalition Government began. Clegg’s party are polling in single figures after the perceived tuition fees “betrayal” whilst the other big party in Oldham, Labour, had their MP Phil Woolas barred from public office for three years after it turned out that he had run a disgraceful election campaign including manipulating images of his Lib Dem opponent Elwyn Watkins.

Ed Miliband’s reaction to the result is reflective of the result. The overriding emotion will not be of celebration but relief. He didn’t even bother to go up to Oldham today and pull a cracker with Debbie Abrahams. Labour can just be relieved that they have won the seat whilst the Coalition can relax having spared further pressure on Clegg and knowing that the country hasn’t yet turned to the only opposition party remaining.