James Forsyth

The coalition faces a by-election test

The coalition faces a by-election test
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The court’s decision that the Oldham East and Saddleworth election must be re-run because Phil Woolas was guilty of illegal practices under election law presents the coalition with a dilemma. Do both parties campaign fully in this three-way marginal?

Oldham East and Saddleworth is number 83 on the Tory target seats list, it would require just over a five percent swing for them to win. But the Lib Dems are even closer, only a hundred odd votes behind Labour.

If both of the coalition parties went all out for it, Labour would have a much better chance of holding on and winning the seat would be a welcome morale boost for the Lib Dems who were down at nine percent in one poll this week. I expect that the Tories will field a candidate. But just how much support the candidate gets will be fascinating. Certainly from a coalition perspective, a Lib Dem win would help Nick Clegg soothe the jangled nerves of some in his party.