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Let the battle commence in Old & Sad

December 31st, 2010

Who has got the edge as postal voting begins

If things have been going to plan then thousands of electors in Oldham East and Saddleworth will be receiving their by-election voting packs in this morning’s mail.

We haven’t got a figure yet on the number of postal votes but at the general election it was 8,316 out of 45,092 votes. Given an expected smaller turnout and the efforts that the red and yellows have been making getting supporters signed up my guess is that the postal proportion should be substantially larger.

The experience of other elections is that postal voters don’t hang about – many vote straight away. For them the by-election is over even though the campaign continues for another thirteen days.

The Survation poll that is being carried out is expected to be published early next week and does include a question on postal voting. Hopefully the firm will provide a party split which could provide an interesting pointer.

Tory activists have been contacting me to say that they have been asked to go to Oldham and it’s clear that a late attempt is bring made to get the blues back into the game.

What will be critical is whether the polling shows that the blues are in a better position to beat Labour than their coalition partners, the Lib Dems. The experience of previous by-election battles is that the party perceived to be third place gets squeezed in the final days.

This is turning out to be the most absorbing by-election for several decades. I’ll refrain from making any firm predictions until we get some polling but on the basis of current national polling Labour should win.

  • But a good omen for the yellows?: the last time Labour lost a seat in a by-election while in opposition was at Greenwich in February 1987 – a battle that took place shortly after the England cricket team last retained the Ashes in Australia. The victor there was the Liberal-SDP alliance.
  • Mike Smithson