Oldham date 'will deprive students of vote'

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Liberal Democrats today of depriving thousands of students of a vote in a key by-election by calling it during the Christmas holidays.

In a break from parliamentary convention, the Lib Dems moved the Commons writ for a January 13 vote in Oldham East and Saddleworth to replace expelled Labour ex-minister Phil Woolas.



Labour, which would usually be responsible for naming the date as the previous holder of the seat, had wanted to hold off to exploit growing public dissent about coalition policies.



Mr Miliband, making an early campaigning foray to the north west seat, joked that the coalition parties had deprived local people of a "politician-free Christmas".



But he also suggested they had effectively "disenfranchised" people who study in the town but live elsewhere in the country.



"We wanted a politician-free Christmas for the people of Oldham East and Saddleworth but the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have denied them that I fear," he told Sky News.



"Also there is a looming issue emerging...because students won't be back to vote by the time of the by-election being called and there is a real concern here about the disenfranchisement of potentially thousands of students.



"Vince Cable is here today - not meeting students you may not be surprised to learn. I think it is very, very important that we make it as possible as we can for those students to vote in this important by-election."



The Liberal Democrats have borne the brunt of student anger over tuition fees after some of its MPs broke a pre-election pledge by voting for a rise to up to £9,000 a year.



The constituency has no MP at present after May's general election result was declared void by a specially-convened election court in November in the first such ruling for 99 years.



Former immigration minister Mr Woolas was found guilty of deliberately lying about Lib Dem rival Elwyn Watkins and failed to overturn the decision in the High Court,



It is understood that Prime Minister David Cameron will be joining the Tory campaign in the constituency.



Local voters would be "the first people to make a judgment about whether the coalition Government is going too far and too fast in their cuts", Mr Miliband said.



"I think they are. That's bad for jobs here in Oldham and it's also bad for services, like the cuts in policing we are going to be seeing.



"We are getting a good response on the doorsteps; we have an excellent candidate...and we are going to be fighting hard."



He played down suggestions of a rift with shadow home secretary Ed Balls, pointing out that they were campaigning together later in the day about police cuts.



Commons Leader Sir George Young dismissed the claims, telling MPs: "It is astonishing that they don't want this by-election to be held."



"No one has been disenfranchised," he insisted.



The Liberal Democrats dismissed Labour claims about student voters being disenfranchised.



A spokesman said: "This is another sign that Labour just doesn't understand the constituency.



"With polling day outside of term time there will actually be many more students at home in Oldham than otherwise would have been the case."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'