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How will the parties campaign in OE&S?

December 18th, 2010

How do they motivate the voters at Holiday time?

It is unlikely that Saddleworth in January has ever been mistaken for Barbados. It is also unlikely that there will be a surge of enthusiasm in the next two weeks from local voters to discover the intricacies of the various candidates’ policies in the forthcoming by-election to succeed Phil Woolas.

The combination of these two things will make the Oldham East & Saddleworth election different from the norm and the parties will have to adapt. They are also likely to have an impact on the election itself. With much of the election campaign being held over the holiday period, both activists and voters will be distracted by other things and in the case of the public, could become openly hostile to parties continually badgering them for their vote. A low-key campaign seems all but inevitable with the low turnout that implies.

Even if activists didn’t have other things to do and voters were likely to be more receptive to them, simple campaigning may not be that easy: Metcheck is predicting that the temperature may not break into positive territory there for the rest of this year. If so, posters will get covered in snow and ice and canvassers and deliverers will find it tough going.

All this will make postal votes far more important than usual – even more so if the weather’s still cold and snowy come polling day. In other words, far from being about to start, the most important part of the campaign may already be effectively over, that campaign being to sign up as many supporters for postal voters as possible.

The question is who’s got themselves best organised to capitalise on the postal votes? The obvious answer is that it should be the Lib Dems. They pushed for the court case and would be silly not to have prepared for the by-election in a way that Labour would have found harder to do – if, indeed, Woolas would have countenanced such activity at all, given that it would have at least admitted the possibility of his guilt. Moving early and at the time when it’s hardest for Labour to counter would therefore make sense.

While the Conservatives start a close third, that position from May could well have been boosted by Woolas’ negative campaign which caused Lib Dem votes to leak but not to the side doing the attacking. The Tories’ local base is less strong than that Westminster performance was and their scores in previous general elections saw them well back. At the time of writing, they could be backed at 19/1 on Betfair which still looks short given the lack of momentum in the blue corner and the difficulty there’ll be establishing any.

As detailed in the previous thread, the Lib Dems are available at up to 9/2 with the bookies. That looks to me to still represent the best value of any of the three parties.

David Herdson