Cameron out on the stump – but does he really want to win?
Friday 07 January 2011
David Cameron made political history yesterday by being the first Prime Minister to go campaigning in a by-election which, it is widely suspected, he is desperate to lose. The Prime Minister did not say that, of course. He insisted that the Conservative candidate, Kashif Ali, and his helpers are out to win Thursday's contest in Oldham East and Saddleworth.
"Of course I want people to vote for Kashif Ali." he said, standing amid dozens of smashed vehicles during a visit to an Oldham car-repair shop. "He's a very good candidate. He fought a very good campaign. He was born locally, he lives locally and he was educated locally."
He added that the Conservatives were fighting a "proper campaign", and have even produced eight different leaflets so far. He also remarked several times during his brief visit that he was the first Prime Minister to put in a personal appearance in an English by-election campaign for more than 13 years.
What Mr Cameron did not point out was that the precedent he was referring to was Tony Blair's intervention in a by-election in Uxbridge in 1997. It was not a success. The Conservatives snatched their first by-election in eight years. Similarly, one wing of the Conservative party is silently hoping that Oldham East will give the embattled Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, his first election success of 2011.
In the May election, the Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins came second, only 103 votes behind Labour. Given the humiliating way in which the incumbent Labour MP, Phil Woolas, was ejected from the Commons after a court ruled he had lied about Mr Watkins during the campaign, the Liberal Democrats ought to be strongly placed to win.
But what is bedevilling Mr Watkins is not his own record as a candidate, but that of Mr Clegg and other Liberal Democrat ministers. Labour's shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson, called into the village of Shaw in the northern part of the constituency yesterday, and the first voter he encountered on Market Street was Mrs Aileen Kramer, who used to vote Liberal Democrat but has switched to Labour, disillusioned with the Lib Dems' record in government over tax, tuition fees and other issues. "I've always been Lib Dem, but I feel we've been sold out," she said. "I voted for them because I felt they stood for the things I believe in, but I think they have been traitors to themselves."
In Oakham and nearby Rochdale, the Lib Dems have a long-standing, solid electoral base inherited from the Liberal Party, but if disillusionment causes it to melt on Thursday, Mr Clegg will have an increasingly mutinous party.
Debbie Abrahams, the Labour candidate in Oldham East, has the look of a future MP. She is a public-health consultant and has lived just outside the constituency boundaries for 24 years. She is married to John Abrahams, a former captain of the Lancashire cricket club who now manages the England under-19 team.
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
Lana Del Rey: 'I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry'
Peaches Geldof cause of death: 'Heroin addict' socialite had taken fatal dose of drug, inquest concludes
Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Was a Russian-made missile really parked in this quiet square?
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...
£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...