Monday, November 15, 2010

That Oldham Election

The approved narrative of the Phil Woolas brouhaha in Oldham East is :

a) the Lib Dems were gaining on him, leveraging their anti-war credentials to attract Muslim voters

b) Woolas' team saw this, realised they were losing Muslim votes and that it could be touch and go

c) Desperate times, desperate measures - a decision was taken to try and up the turnout among the despised white working class

d) method - leaflets (probably wrongly) associating the Lib Dems with the sort of extremists who call for beheadings, (rightly) pointing out the Lib Dem support for an immigration amnesty (Tory leaflets also mentioned this), and calling on voters to 'Stand By Phil'

Although what probably did for Woolas in the court case was an allegation that the Lib Dims were taking Saudi gold, it was the attempts to 'get the white vote angry' that led white lefties to choke on their lattes.

I assumed that narrative was pretty much OK, until I looked at the actual results :

General Election 2010: Oldham East and Saddleworth[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%

Labour Phil Woolas 14,186 31.9 −10.7

Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins 14,083 31.6 −0.5

Conservative Kashif Ali 11,773 26.4 +8.7

BNP Alwyn Stott 2,546 5.7 +0.8

UKIP David Bentley 1,720 3.9 +1.8

Christian Gulzar Nazir 212 0.5 N/A
Majority 103 0.2 −10.2
Turnout 44,520 61.2 +4.4

Hang on - the resurgent Lib Dems actually lost vote share compared to 2005!

I hadn’t realised that the big difference in Oldham 2010 was the drop in the Labour vote, not an increase in the Lib Dem vote. Lib Dems lost just a couple of hundred votes compared to 2005 (despite an increase in turnout from 57.3% to 61.2%), Labour lost about 3,800.

The Tory vote went up by 3,000 – presumably 3,000 ex-Labour voters. The Tory increase is all the more impressive given that UKIP increased their vote by 900-odd – presumably patriotic ex-Tories. The BNP added 400 votes - probably mostly ex-Labour, too.

The swing to the Tories of 8.2% was more than twice the national average of 3.8%.

So what did 2010 Tory candidate Kashif Ali (11,773 votes, 26.4%) have that 2005 Tory candidate Keith Chapman (7,901 votes, 18.2%) didn’t have ?

Could it be that the formerly Labour Muslim votes were never heading to the Lib Dems, but, on grounds of "friendship, family ties or tribalism" (as the anti-Woolas Muslim Public Affairs Committee put it) to their Tory co-religionist ?

UPDATE - apparently Mr Kashif was parachuted in by CCO against the local party's wishes :

Traditionalists have been angered by Mr Cameron’s plans to take control of shortlists to impose women and ethnic minority candidates to boost their numbers in Parliament. Constituency party chair Mrs Barbara Jackson, an active member for 30 years, claimed two candidates were removed from the selection list at the last minute and others weren’t allowed to stand.

She claimed Mr Ali had threatened management that he would recruit family as members to take over the association if he was not selected.

Mrs Jackson said she had been labelled racist for complaining, but added: “They paint it as a race issue but it’s nothing to do with race. I won’t give in to bullying tactics from anyone no matter what the race, colour or sex. I’m still a Conservative but I’m very disappointed with the party. “The way they have done it is just wrong because the electorate deserve a choice. They have decided who our candidate is and that’s it, full stop. The constituency should be guiding the candidates, not the other way round. Very able people in our constituency have been rejected. Why they think it’s acceptable I can’t understand. It’s an exercise in ticking boxes and positive discrimination. They want women and Asians.”


Anonymous said...

Excellent detective work as always Laban. In the hysteria about Woolas, the raw facts have been forgotten/conveniently ignored.

JuliaM said...

"Mrs Jackson said...I’m still a Conservative..."

It's nice to know there are a few left in the party...

Mark said...

Excellent research Laban.
I wonder if Mr Ali is being retained as the Tory candidate to fight in the eventual by-election ?

BTW the (it is to be hoped final)downfall of supercreep Woolas has been one of the few bits of good news to emerge in the last month, dominated as it has been by the hairshirt CSR announcement, and the ongoing train crash that is the Afghanistan compaign.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, but it's an odd constituency - once Littelborough and Saddleworth (Little and Sad). Back then it was Tory until the demise of Geoffrey Dickens in the early 90s, when it passed to LibDem Chris Davies and then to Woolas. Saddleworth is Oldham's posh bit - lots G & H council tax banded properties and Tory support there. The Lees Road that takes you to Saddleworth is predominantly Asian - BBC's Newsnight has been covering a new multi-ethnic Academy that's just opened in the area. But don't underestimate the natural Tory support in the area.

Paulinus said...

Shouldn't that be Lib Dhimms?