Which way will Oldham East and Saddleworth go?
A nation is on tenterhooks for the answer to this question. Well, maybe not quite but as a 3-way marginal it is by some considerable degree the most interesting of the now three by-elections on the cards. Turnout, incidentally, will probably give us a very early indication of the way it will go; a low turnout and it’s bad news for Labour. A high one will almost certainly indicate a good result. Polling close is just over an hour so let’s try and look at the only 3 outcomes I feel are now ‘in-play’.
A Liberal Democrat win.
This is, in my eyes, improbable but not impossible. If at 10 the turnout is confirmed as being very low then I suspect this is the way things will go. It’s all down to voter motivation you see. The Liberal Democrat vote, were it not for the Coalition, would be highly motivated and on-top of the local factors would most likely form a highly energised minority. As it is, the size of this vote will in my eyes be reduced (not having enough switchers from the Conservatives to compensate for their loses). Nonetheless it will remain highly motivated so a low turnout could see Oldham East turn yellow on the backs of a highly energersied minority and some tactical voting by erstwhile Conservative voters.
Labour Majority of between 1 – 2000.
The question here will be how large the majority is; if its a reduced one, even with a Labour win, it will be a very bad result for Labour. It will move the focus of the media narrative away from ‘Lib Dem crisis’ to Ed Miliband’s crisis very quickly indeed. A majority of between 1 and 2 thousand will be a solid but not spectacular performance. The media focus will remain on the Liberal Democrats and their problems but you cant help escaping the feeling we could have done a little better. Nonetheless, those who feel we should will be drowned out by the rejoicing…
Labour Majority of 2000+
Again, its a question of degrees but as soon as we enter this area we are into more impressive territory. This is meltdown time for the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg because a Labour majority of over 2,000 in the context of a seat where they had alot of local factors running their way will be crushing for the morale of not just local but also national activists. May and its potential massacre will start to loom large and the drip-drip of council defections may well become a flood as former Liberal Democrats dash to save their seats. If the Labour majority exceeds 5,000 then expect major ructions within the Liberal Democrats, starting tomorrow morning.
My Prediction: Labour Majority between 1,500 and 2,000. A solid but not spectacular result which is the minimum we should expect in the national climate.