On 13th January, Oldham will be holding their bi-election. The reason for this re-run of the recent general election poll is that Labour were caught being a bit pesky with the truth and accusing the Lib Dems of courting the extreme Islam vote (always a winner, don’t you remember that photo of Ming and Osama Bin Laden bowling together?).
If I had disposable cash, I would put some on Labour winning, with a much healthier majority than the one they got in the GE (only 103 votes!). Only problem being the odds wouldn’t be great, every bookie is probably banking on exactly the same thing.
This all seems to make sense, bi-elections tend to go to the opposition parties as a way of the public voicing their dissatisfaction with government policies. But does the coalition change how we view bi-elections? I would argue that it should.
Previously, a bi-election gave the public two choices. Whilst it can’t replace the government, the voters can choose to weaken the government’s hand or strengthen it.
This time, however, the public can do far more than that. They can influence the direction of policy the government takes. If they elect a Tory MP, the government’s right flank will be emboldened, or if they elect a Lib Dem MP, then it will be the liberal-left wing who gain momentum. For the first time in living memory, we have a choice of picking which wing of the government we want to have a greater sway.
Contrast this to the third option – voting Labour. Sure it will result in a bad headline for the government, but it won’t have any tangible effect. Labour still won’t have enough MP’s to defeat legislation. You have to wait until the next general election for that.
So Oldham would be foolish to pass up this rare opportunity to affect government policy. Approve of an immigration cap? Vote Conservative. Like the raised tax threshold for low earners? Vote Liberal. A vote for Labour is the juvenile option, and the folks of Oldham are robbed if they go for it.