Labour retains Oldham in a blow for the coalition

LABOUR triumphed over the coalition parties last night, retaining the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat in yesterday’s by-election.

Labour candidate Debbie Abrahams held the seat with a several thousand vote majority, ahead of Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins in second position, while Conservative candidate Kashif Ali trailed behind.

Voter turnout was 48.06 per cent.

The result in the largest constituency in Greater Manchester is seen as punishment of the Lib Dems for their role in the coalition government alongside the Conservatives.

The victory keeps Labour in the seat, which came up for election after sitting MP Phil Woolas was removed from office for lying about his opponent Watkins in election material.

The constituency, with a left-leaning electorate and concerns over the effect of public sector cuts on jobs, should have been an easy Lib Dem win.

But voter animosity against Nick Clegg for leading the Lib Dems to backtrack on key election pledges such as tuition fees decimated the party’s chance of a win. The loss will add to pressure on Clegg to pacify the party’s support base.