There will be lots of column inches wasted this morning trying to draw great conclusions from the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, when really by-elections don’t tell us a whole lot we couldn’t tell from the national polls anyway. The OES result was in the sort of ball park we should have expected from the ICM and Populus polls a week ago. They both suggested a Labour lead of 17 points, and in the event Labour won by around 10 points – but the publication of the polls showing the Liberal Democrats in a clear second probably encouraged further tactical voting and shifted support from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats in that final week.

An increase in Labour support of about 10 points is very much in line with the national picture anyway, more interesting is the degree of tactical voting by Conservative supporters in favour of the Lib Dems, which made up for a large loss of Lib Dem support to Labour and allowed them to retain their vote share. Populus’s poll already had 22% of 2010 Conservative voters switching to the Lib Dems, and presumably the actual figure was higher given the apparent shift in the vote since the pre-by-election polls.

If this became a common pattern at elections then it would have a significant effect, essentially reversing the pattern of tactical voting we’ve seen at the last four or five elections, especially if it also worked the other way with Liberal Democrat supporters being willing to back the Conservatives tactically. This is not as outlandish as it seems – remember the remaining rump support for the Liberal Democrats is made up of those more positively inclined towards the Tories, in a forced choice question of whether they’d prefer a Labour or Tory government, they opt for a Tory government by 51% to 16%. While it’s interesting to speculate, by-elections are strange creatures and it would be foolish to assume the level of tactical voting at a by-election would be replicated at a general election.

Following on from Oldham East and Saddleworth, later this year we should be getting by-elections in Barnsley Central and possibly Leicester South (if, as expected, Peter Soulsby becomes elected mayor of Leicester) and Belfast West (if, as expected, Gerry Adams steps down to contest Louth in the Irish general election).

262 Responses to “Oldham East and Saddleworth”

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  1. The majority was well in line with most people’s predictions here, though Labour’s share of the vote was higher than most thought it would be, myself included.

  2. Brand spanking new site Anthony, I like it (though why can I only register an account with lowercase letters?). As for the by-election, more sober and sound analysis from you too. The level of tactical voting was a bit higher than expected, but nothing shocking.

  3. Ignore that question about usernames, I’m a clot and names are shown on the site as all uppercase anyway.

  4. An interesting result from which all three parties will draw some cautious optimism.

    Labour will obviously be pleased to have increased its majority in this constituency but there are three mitigating factors: (1) they are now in opposition so they were bound to hold it (2) it was not the thumping victory that would have suggested the coalition is in serious electoral trouble and (3) the coalition parties combined polled more than Labour.

    The LDs held their share of the vote but perhaps have most to be worried about as it’s clear a lot of their votes were cast tactically by Tories.

    The Tories were obviously stuffed but, bigger picture, will be pleased that their partner’s vote held up.

    For me this is all pointing to a formal electoral pact at the next GE, to keep Labour out.

  5. I guess there are two ways to interpret this result – last night Lab and LD received almost exactly their vote from the 2005 election with Tories going down so the swing of 2010 (which was 9% to the Tories) has either unwound or, as Antony (and the other polls) suggests the Lab inclined LD voters have deserted the party and “come home to Labour” but the LD vote held up because Tories flocked to vote for them tactically, making up the difference.

    If the Tories are now propping up LD votes it begs a big question about what would happen under AV and also what is going to happen in the S & SW where many Tory/LD marginals might actually be won by the Tories (would Huhne be safe?). Also would probably mean that Clegg would be safe in a GE as the Tory vote would switch to him.

    Any thougths?

  6. This is a very good result for Labour and Miliband, and a nightmare for both the Cons and LDs. Although the Conservatives ran a candidate, they all but pulled out of the contest and made it known that they’d be happy for their voters to go LD. So this was the first time Labour was fighting a coalition electoral machine. This was also a genuine three-way marginal. The LDs called the byelection, they poured massive resources into it – they were absolutely serious about winning. That they’re now invoking the Dunkirk defence, that not getting wiped out is a victory of sorts, is disingenuous and covers few of the problems they and the Tories now have.

    The LDs thought they’d win this seat – Watkins was only 103 votes behind Woolas in May. They also gambled that public opinion about the cuts, their poll ratings, etc., had not bedded down yet and was still soft. It isn’t. Labour increased the irmajority thirty-fold and their share of the vote by a third. Clegg knows that the LD share of the vote only held because of large-scale Tory tactical voting. The loss of LD voters should be giving him sleepless nights, and is undermining him more than is apparent right now.

    The Tories have irritated their grassroots by ignoring a good local candidate to prop up the LDs (again) at the expense of their own people. Cameron will not be able to run such as non-campaign again in a hurry.

    the lesson I would take from this if I were a Tory or LD strategist is that even running a ‘coalition candidate’ where one of them steps aside is no guarantee of defeating Labour. Arguably, if a Tory had not stood, Labour would still have won, but with a majority in the very low hundreds.

    I await national polls for early next week with keen interest now.

  7. Hello everyone.

    Thankyou AW for all your work keeping the site updated.

    What are peoples’ views on the extent of the effect of the ‘reversal’ in tactical voting seen in O&S, at a GE ?

  8. “last night Lab and LD received almost exactly their vote from the 2005 election”

    Adrian B, that’s not true. Labour increased its vote by over 500 and its share of the vote by 10%. The Lib Dems maintained their share but dropped more than 2,900 votes.

  9. Thanks Bert – I meant the Lab and LD vote was the same as 2005 in rough percentage terms. The actual number of votes is less imp in comparison with a GE result because of a much reduced turnout (48% compared with over 60% at GE).


  10. It is interesting to note that the vote yesterday gave results quite similar to 2005. It is tempting to speculate that the special causes that caused the LD vote to rise in May have simply gone away. I do think that the lower turnout has had an effect. The differential turn out hurt the tories the most. Given the polls showed them losing, they had a choice of voting tactically or just staying at home.

    I don’t think the result changes much really. The parties finished in the expected order. The number of MPs on each side hasn’t changed. None of the parties have had a game changing result. The only big changes are for Wollas and Abrahams, and the bank balances of the parties.

  11. Notional 2005 = Lab 42.3% and LD 32.3%
    Actual 2011 = Lab 42.1% LD 31.9%

    Seems clear to me that leftie LDs flocked to Lab and tactical Tories flocked to LDs leaving the LD share pretty static.

  12. I agree with Colin Green.

    I don’t actually understand what has taken place on this site. I log on and everyone is saying it has changed but i just had to enter my captcha code as usual. Not only that but my party colour, which i registered ages ago, but fails to come up when I contribute to the constituency pages, still does not come up 9see this post0 when I post.

    What am i doing wrong, or different??

    What’s all this about re-registering AW please?

  13. Adrian B
    I agree with you too. A sort of AV non AV election.

  14. Tark

    “The LDs called the byelection, they poured massive resources into it – they were absolutely serious about winning. That they’re now invoking the Dunkirk defence, that not getting wiped out is a victory of sorts, is disingenuous and covers few of the problems they and the Tories now have.”

    Of course Labour didn’t even try, did they?!

    Your ‘analyses’ on this thread and the last one are disingenious they are so selective in favour of Labour.

    Welcome to this site and may I suggest you read the comments policy before contributing further.


  15. “Liberal Democrat supporters being willing to back the Conservatives tactically. This is not as outlandish as it seems – remember the remaining rump support for the Liberal Democrats is made up of those more positively inclined towards the Tories, in a forced choice question of whether they’d prefer a Labour or Tory government, they opt for a Tory government by 51% to 16%. ”

    Ah but- conversely- the recent Angus Reid poll (7th January 35-40-12) asked a concurrent question along the lines of ‘If you only had a choice of Labour versus the coalition how would you vote’.

    ATTAD/ Coalition fell from 47 to 38 and Labour up from 40 to 45.

    This poll number also provides us with implications/ evidence for the second preference of LD current supporters.

    It does not support the notion of a major tactical vote by current LD supporters for the Conservatives.

    Though of course- ‘you pays your money and you takes your (polling company) choice’… !

  16. I’ll repeat my assertion from the earlier thread that this result should be viewed with alarm by Lib Dems. If the Tories suffered a huge third party squeeze in order to help shore up their coalition partners to see off the Labour candidate, where did these votes go and what on earth has happened to the Lib Dem support from the GE?

    Viewing this result is all about timescales and expectations, and everyone should remember that when the Lib Dems unusually forced this by election, commentators called this a tough test for Labour. Make no mistake – Clegg thought he would win this seat and ressurect the traditional Lib Dems by election bandwagon, even from government.

    The only reason some people think that the Lib Dems have performed reasonably well is that we had some constituency polls that suggested Labour up by 17%, but as AW says these probably helped to crystallise pro coalition tactical voting – the underlying support levels are probably still just as bad for Clegg. Failing to overturn a wafer thin majority in a three way marginal when you receive massive tactical support from the collapse of the third party vote represents a major electoral failure.

    @Oldnat – on the last thread you questioned my assertion that it’s now Labour against the rest, saying that it is always like that. I beg to differ. Clearly, there is now substantial anti Labour tactical voting going on. It really is Labour against the rest, and for them to win pretty much any by elections in this scenario is impressive.

  17. Labour majority 0.5% more than 2005 when they had been in government 8 years already. How can even diehard Labourites spin this result as anything more than just a relief at best?

    Suggests their current poll numbers v. LD are more fickle than they look.

    That said, I’m sure Ed M is not complaining about the result exactly – but let’s keep a sense of perspective.

  18. I should also have said “Labour vote share the same as in 2005 [when they had become a tired-looking government after 8 years]”.

    So a return to 2005 level support rather than, er, some other conclusions being drawn.

  19. @BT Says – “Labour majority 0.5% more than 2005 when they had been in government 8 years already. How can even diehard Labourites spin this result as anything more than just a relief at best?”

    I’m you just don’t seem to understand what we are living through now. In 2005 we had three party politics, with one governing party and oposition split between two parties. Today we have a coalition, with two governing parties cooperating to try to defeat a single opposition party.

    If you can’t understand that this has a huge impact on voting habits and the expectations for the results I’m wondering why you bother reading a polling site?

  20. Alec

    ” It really is Labour against the rest, and for them to win pretty much any by elections in this scenario is impressive.”

    You’re normally better than this Alec -what’s happened?

    Contrary to what you say, main opposition parties normally walk by-elections ( especially in the midst of spending cuts and even more so with both the other main parties in government!, making Labour’s life a doddle)

  21. Alec

    “I’m you just don’t seem to understand what we are living through now. In 2005 we had three party politics, with one governing party and oposition split between two parties. Today we have a coalition, with two governing parties cooperating to try to defeat a single opposition party.”

    Yes, granted there is some cooperation there – yes it is significant. I do see that, believe it or not.

    BUT, conversely, people fed up with the government – as always is the case, especially manifested in by-elections when the government get kicks in the teeth – now don’t split between 2 main opposition parties – there is only one, Labour, who reap all the benefits.

    So, to quote your kind words to me:
    “If you can’t understand that this has a huge impact on voting habits and the expectations for the results I’m wondering why you bother reading a polling site?”

  22. Nick Clegg will be happy. His party has declined 300% in the opinion polls and yet in Oldham East and Saddleworth they held firm. That is no small achievement for the most derided party in Britain. Peel away the result and what do we have? Well the omens are frankly still good. He probably gained c5,000 votes from blue but this means that 6,000 of yellows own voters, turned out to perform for their party again. Of course, 6,000 of an original 13,000 is less that half a retention rate, which would equate their national average of the vote, if uniform, to about 11% in the national polls, maybe slightly less. But guess what? There is more good news for him. Of the 6,000 voters who deserted yellow, only 3,000 stomached a return to red. This holds out fantastic hope for yellow that they might be able to tease yellows back into the fold. Thus, of the voters who chose the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 General Election, I reckon that half will remain solid yellow, even at the next election, and a further quarter might be willing to return to the party. It leaves a potential growth for yellow back up to c.18%. Of course, there would be a lot of hard work to do where they ever to re-capture that figure but after last night’s result Clegg will know that it is possible. Some might point to the lower turnout of 48% and say that had these stay at homes bothered to vote at all, then it may have been red that would have earned their support. Whilst entirely possible, Nick will not want to hear that this morning; he’ll be concentrating on the possibilities that are open to his party. Politics is a funny old thing, nothing is ever what it first seems.

  23. Regardless of how happy/unhappy the major parties are the minor parties have some good and bad news.

    UKIP will be happy to ahve come a good forth and saved their deposit, but the fact that the BNP lost theirs only 9 years after topping 11% does not bode well for them.

    Equally I find it quite amusing that the Egnlish Democrats came after the MRLP by a single vote :D

  24. @SERGIO
    “For me this is all pointing to a formal electoral pact at the next GE, to keep Labour out.”

    Nay, nay and thrice nay!! Where I live in the south in a part rural, part urban constituency there is no way that the local party activists, (of which I am one), would countenance any formal pact with the Tories. I would imagine this would be the same across a lot of the south and south west of England. Large swathes of the party would up and quit, and rightly so. The LDs are not just some feeder club for the Tories.

  25. Hi all,

    I have been following the site since the UK election last year and find it (you) all very interesting. I just came across this analysis in the Guadian websiite and I quote:

    “The first thought about the Oldham byelection result is that it proves the national opinion polls are bunk, with all the predictive power of a mystic pouring over the entrails of a chicken”.

    Me again, its nothing of the sort right?

  26. @BT
    Thanks for the welcome to the thread. I did read the comments policy, and I am no more partisan that other contributors. I do not (and will not) have a party colour background to my posts. My own comments are little different to those of others, and I am not making party-political points. I’m just commenting that the Labour vote held up better than, say, the Survation poll and other commentators yesterday evening suggested, especially given the resources and credibility the LDs staked on this contest.

    I do think it’s relevant to question the strength of the LD vote given what looks like Conservative dophins holding up the LDs (cf Janet Daley in the Telegraph), and since this is the first electoral test of a coalition it is bound to attract an awful lot of comment and speculation.

  27. Fair enough Tark, there are a lot of complexities to this result and I guess as many opinions as there are contributors.

    I now bide my leave from this site for a few hours at least!

  28. @ TheGreenbenches
    Good points. I would argue that the 7-8% now being polled by the LDs are as low as they will get. Nationally – all things being equal – I would imagine they would poll 12-13% in a GE – which still represents almost a 50% drop in support. If AV doesn’t pass, national polling will be of less use in marginals than it was before and I think we’ll see some surprising LD holds, a bit like Labour holding Bham Edgbaston and Oxford East in 2010.

    However, the other question now is how dependent LD votes are on Tory tactical voting, and I do think there will be noticeable backlashes against the national leadership if the strong support for the LDs at the right wing’s grassroots’ expense continues.

    For Labour – enjoy it for now. I’m noticing more commentary that is raising the bar for Labour success as achieving 50% of the vote.

  29. Helsinkiperson – of course it’s bunk, but to give Tom Clark credit, he’s only written that paragraph as a rhetorical straw man for him to knock down later in the article.

  30. Testing

  31. Ok, I looked again at the article, he is saying that the polls on the weekend allowed Conservative votes to switch to the Liberals and that Liberal votes might switch to Conservatives elsewhere hence AV is good for them not Labour.

    Isnt the issue though regarding the polls more about who switched where and in what numbers? Will we be able to get that sort of figure from the actual votes? Do we know the amount of Left and right leaning Liberals?

    Or where on the spectrum of Left, Cente left ,Centre right, Right, most of the electorate of the UK sit?

  32. Testing (again)
    And no CAPTCHA Code !!!

  33. You have truncated your RSS feeds! Is this a mistake? Please, please put them back as they were.

  34. @Gafthehorse

    I accept what you say and I don’t imagine for a second that the prospect of an electoral pact will make many Tories or LDs particularly happy.

    However, the hard truth is that they govern as a unit and, the national polling tends to suggest, they are largely judged by the electorate as a unit, and certainly by the 10% who have defected from yellow to red.

    If all the anti-government voting goes to Labour AND the govt parties then stand alone the next GE will likely be a Labour landslide. Which may be judged by both blue and yellow to be the least palatable option of all.

  35. Holyrood News

    Gail Sheridan (wife of Tommy) tops the Solidarity list for Glasgow.

    However, as usual, the Socialist multi-party internecine warfare is likely to prevent her election.

  36. In past elections I always wondered why the LibDems and Labour did not vote more tactically in Tory marginal seats, didn’t Billy Bragg try something along these lines and they always failed? Will the remaining LibDems vote for the Tories in the Tory marginals and vice versa? I can’t see this happening to any large extent outside by-elections.

  37. Is there any data on whether voters know if they are in Tory marginal seats and vice versa?

  38. @BT says.
    I read your comments to Tark about being too partisan with some surprise.
    The proverb ‘people in glass houses …….’ comes to mind :-)

  39. At the risk of sounding boastful, may I remind people of the prediction I made. (The real result is in brackets):-

    Labour 42% (42%)
    Lib Dems 36% (32%)
    Tories 10% (13%)
    Others 12% (13%)

    I know what you’re all thinking – how on earth did I get it exactly right??

    I predicted Labour on 42% – and hey presto they got 42%!

    Spooky, huh?

    The reason is simple.

    You see, I’m a genius.

    But I’ve got bad news for you all – I’m afraid I don’t do autographs.


    I am genuinely perplexed as to how the Tory vote held up so well. The weekend ICM/Populus polls had them on around 17% – gifting the Lib Dems a tremendous opportunity of benefitting from some major tactical voting. Yet the Tory vote fell by only 4% in the last week of the campaign.

    Equally surprising is that the Lib Dems only advanced by 4% in the final week (and yes, I realise that the polls were perhaps a litttle over-generous to the Lib Dems in the way they reallocated the ‘Don’t Knows’ – but I still expected them to put in a better performance).

    Perhaps most of those Tories who were willing to vote tactically for the Lib Dems had already switched early on in the campaign (possibly because of the widely-reported closeness of the result last time). Maybe the weekend polls did not help the Lib Dems much after all – because voters saw that even with the factor of tactical voting they wouldn’t be able to win.

    The overall conclusion I draw from the robustness of the Labour vote is that the Lib Dem brand has become well and truly toxic – and is, thanks to the coalition, no longer able to draw in votes from the centre left.

    PS – Anthony: my Labour Party colours are no longer coming up on the constituency threads (and do not show on this thread either). I have checked my ‘extended profile’ and it still shows me as a Labour supporter.

  40. I think Tark’s pretty much called it correctly: it was a good win for Labour over what was in essence (but not sufficiently) a coalition opponent.

    Whilst the vote shows that there is some support for the coalition it ought to also show them that they are going to have real electoral problems whichever way they turn, unless and until the economy and unemployment improve.

  41. It seems to me that DC, NC and EM can each take something from this result. DC’s intervention has lead to the LD vote share holding up, thereby postponing/delaying problems in the LD party. NC can argue that things aren’t as bad as they could have been. And EM can point to a good win with substantial increased vote share.

    For me the biggest point arising out of this result is that Con voters are open to vote tactically to try and stop Lab. Previously I think there was little (if any) evidence that Con voters would entertain this.

    Whether this would continue into a GE remains to be seen. Indeed it is unclear how this would work under AV.

    A point arising is whether the result encourages (or discourages) a formal electoral pact between C and LD.

    The ideal (for C and LD, that is) scenario would be for a coalition approved candidate to stand in each seat. But would this be acceptable to the two parties? It would IMO inevitably lead to merger (as has happened in the past). The prospect of such merger (or indeed such extensive electoral agreement) will not be welcomed by everyone in the Cons and LDs.

    Personally, I think the Cons tactical ‘withdrawal’ from OES will in time be viewed as ghastly mistake. IMO it will increase dissatisfaction amongst Con MPs etc and deeply worry leftwing LD MPs etc.

    It will be several days, perhaps weeks, before the ‘fallout’ from this result begins to be noticed and felt. It will be seen IMO as a key defining moment for DC, NC and EM.

  42. Robin Hood – I noticed that. I thought it may have happened because you set your colours after I’d copied over the old user database, but before I switched the new one live. If your extended profile still shows Labour I’m not sure why it would have happened though.

    Try changing it, saving it, then changing it back to Labour and saving again. If that doesn’t work I’ll have a check at some point over the weekend when I can dig about in the database.

  43. @Nick Hadley- from previous thread

    “This was a much better result for Labour than I expected and, in terms of the highly entertaining post-result spin from the Tories and Lib Dems, I tend to agree with Alec’s summary of the true import of this result for our domestic politics…..I thought Labour would win narrowly with a majority of between 500-800. This was based on my, now apparent, over-estimation of the number of Tory voters who might lend their votes tactically to the Lib Dem candidate. Some obviously did, but it didn’t compensate for the number of Lib Dem voters who defected to Labour and, it may well be, that a few Tories, as Burnham suggested, went over to Labour too. I was also caught out a bit by the turnout. I thought it would be about 42% and was (very pleasantly) surprised at 48%.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with both you and Alec. A good result that will precursor a year of electoral setbacks (of all types) for the Conservative-led government.

    This was a highly publicised election- a one off as opposed to a GE or national set of locals or a W/S devolved election. In the latter cases the kinds of (arguably) tactical shenanigans attempted by Dave this time won’t work and it will also be improbable that “survation” could impact a GE/ national set of local elections in quite the manner they did on this occasion with the poll showing Labour ahead by a single percentage point!

    That poll would have had a massive impact on Conservative voters that simply will not be possible to achieve outside the hothouse of such a by-election atmosphere/ context: the headline of a one point lead will have been focussed upon the not sub-level explanation that this was facilitated by including DK’s as a voting category. Blue voters would have thought that ‘crikey we can stop the reds’- and this will have accounted for a significant number of the yellow votes. As evidenced by the collapse in the Conservative vote- though it should also be pointed out that the UKIP-BNP-EDL combined received 10%….

    Similarly voters who shifted since May from yellow to red were significant and Labour can also be happy with the small- but let’s not ignore it- blue to red shift as well.

    The Oldham by-election illustrates that a certain degree of decontamination from the clunking-fist years has (already) been achieved by Labour. More is necessary. In that regard EdM is correct to (a) start the process of adopting several key neo-Blairite polices i.e. diluting the Trades Union link and (b) taking 12 months to write this policy platform. The heavy lifting of the next twelve months (in terms of reasons to vote Labour) is being done by the Conservative-led government all on their own.

    By early to mid 2012 the election contradictions and broken promises of yellow will be a distant memory and the unemployment increases and service reductions/ removals will be being deeply experienced by the population. People will then need clear cut policies and a clear set of (realistic centrist) alternatives. But for 2011 EdM’s strategy is absolutely correct: you don’t put your hand in the way of the barrel of a gun that your opponent is aiming at their own foot.

    The Oldham by-election also illustrates that Nick (and the yellows) future is utterly in Dave’s (and Georges) hands.

    Unless the majority of yellow MP’s decide to take their fate back into their own hands and cut their (significant) losses- and probable wipe-out in the next GE- in late 2013 and pull the plug.

    By late 2013 they would have suffered three years of defeat and disillusion and the leaching of their support (felt acutely and harshly at the local level in the May’s of 2011, 2012 and 2013) with only the going-down-with-HMS Clegg to look forward to at the GE. It’s quite possible 35- 45 LD MP’s would pull out of the Conservative-led government, though that will still leave the orange book cleggites in power alongside the newly installed Ulster Unionists.

    But if the social liberals did take back responsibility for their own fates the Orangies would be finished as – for example- the LD’s would put up a candidate against the independent MP Clegg. He would not stand a chance: if he stood that is- the EU awaits…

    It has been said before- perhaps prematurely. But surely now this by-election marks not the end of the conservative-led government, nor the beginning of its end: but it most surely marks the end of its beginning.

  44. Colour testing.

  45. AW

    I likes most of the changes, but I do miss the applets (or whatever their techncial name is) on the left side where the current topical threads were listed with recent posters’ names. Or am I being blind?

  46. Testing everything -I’ve still got to do the captcha thing -help AW please?

  47. GaftheHorse- “Nay, nay and thrice nay!!” :)

    A BBC political editor has suggested the OE&S result may prompt tory right-wingers to demand that it is their turn at the next next byelection (ie LDs refrain from campaigning).

    Personally I don’t see them rising to that tempting bait, but I do think that one Cameronian strategy is to try to engineer a situation whereby an electoral pact becomes all but inevitable.

  48. Without the Tory swtichers to LD, the LD vote would have been less than 25%.

    I think the Tories will be hoping that there won’t be too many by-elections in the north of England, as the Tory right are very concerned about Camerons appearance to want to give his faithful friend Clegg a helping hand.

    It would also be very interesting for there to be a by-election in a Tory/LD marginal, where the LD’s are holding the seat. Would Labour voters switch to the Tories to cause friction?

  49. testing 1, 2, 1, 2

  50. @Sergio
    Thank you for the vote of confidence :)

    In also think @RobSheffield is right by saying that Labour has shed much of the clunking fist already. See one of the polls soon after the GE that found that although Labour seemed tired, out of touch and with a terrible communicator for PM, it was not the nasty party. The basic opinion was that its heart was still largely in the right place.

    There’s something else to note as well. Cons are seeing a bit of the toxicity returning over bonuses and the NHS, neither of which can be shielded by LDs. Although many ascribe the low LD polling and pretty good Con numbers as evidence that the toxicity has moved from Con to LD … the toxicity is still there within the coalition, which might be something to think of if tempted to merge tactically and run coalition candidates, leaving tribal Con or LD voters with a very interesting dilemma.

    So the coalition is already finding that it has much less room for manoeuvre than one might think, and that the toxicity that used to always be ascribed to the Cons is actually still there. I do think the tactical voting experiment the Cons attempted has backfired, not because of third place, but because of the very loud noises about running a dishonest campaign that undermined its own candidate. Cameron is already having to publicly defend himself in Newcastle today.

    So the economy and unemployment are only part of picture. The decontamination job, I think, was exaggerated by the media.

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