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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam