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Debbie Abrahams Wins By-Election

A smiling Debbie Abrahams arrives at the count, accompanied by Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams is the new MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth. She won the by-election with a comfortable majority of 3,558 over the Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins. The Conservative Kashif Ali was well beaten in third.

Although Labour had been strong favourites to win the poll, the margin of victory was notably more than had been expected. Also better than predicted was the turnout, which was a respectable 48% despite the drizzly weather which hung around all day.

Taking the podium at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham for her first speech as an MP, Mrs Abrahams said her victory marked “the first step on a long journey ahead” for Labour.

She also criticised both coalition parties, saying the voters of our area had sent “a clear message” to the Westminster government: “Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, you may be watching but now you have to listen.”

Labour's newest MP Debbie Abrahams after her victory.

She particularly focused on the coalition’s policies for young people, attacking the increase in tuition fees and the decision to scrap the Educational Maintenance Allowance: “You are making the wrong decisions for the long-term future of our country. Tories and Lib Dems are happy to kick away the ladders which helped millions of young people climb to a better future.”

Later, she told Saddleworth News she was “absolutely delighted” adding: “I think people did want to send a strong message back to this government. They really are very angry about the broken promises. And although they’re national policies they’re having local effects and that’s what I think this government needs to be mindful of. So we want to make sure we’re providing a strong opposition to these very unfair policies.”

When asked what her early priorities as our MP might be, she replied: “Again it’s making sure that the interests of all the borough are represented in Westminster.”

Mrs Abrahams repeatedly referred to the people of “this borough” rather than “Oldham” and when I asked whether she was just going out of her way to be diplomatic to Saddleworth folks, she said: “Oldham East and Saddleworth, I’m here to represent all of the issues and needs of the constituency.” She also revealed she’ll be going down to Westminster early next week.

As for the vanquished, Mr Watkins put on a brave face despite what must have been a desperately disappointing night for him. He forced the by-election after winning a legal challenge over his narrow defeat to Phil Woolas in the general election, successfully arguing that Mr Woolas had broken the law by knowingly telling lies about him.

Beaten Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins speaks to the media following the declaration.

Speaking to Saddleworth News, Mr Watkins commented: “Obviously I’m disappointed. But this is democracy, and in a democracy you have a contest, and people have a democratic process of deciding who they want to be their MP.”

Reflecting on the Woolas case, he said: “I took the legal challenge on because I always said I’d rather fight and lose and walk away, and I got vindicated. So nobody can ever take that away from me. I never expected to win that, and so this by-election effectively was an add-on to that.”

When asked whether he was always up against it given the criticism the Lib Dems have suffered since joining the coalition, he replied: “When you’re in opposition, you can promise what you want and you can campaign against everything that’s nasty, and campaign in favour of everything that’s nice. That’s an easy situation. When you’re in government you have to be accountable for the government’s decisions.”

Mr Watkins, who lives in Delph, wouldn’t be drawn yet on what the future holds for him: “It’s a bit early to say, but I love Delph, I call it the fantasy village. I love the whole area. And I shall obviously be sitting down and having a bit of a think about what’s going to be happening in the future.”

Conservative Kashif Ali refused to blame the national party for his distant third place result.

If Mr Watkins was left disappointed, so too was Mr Ali, who could only poll 4,481 votes, well under half what he managed at the general election. He said he took full personal responsibility for the result, and refused to blame the allegedly lacklustre support he received from the national Conservative party.

He told Saddleworth News that the “context of by-elections” was the main factor: “We all know three things happen. Governing parties do badly and don’t win. Opposition parties do well, and the Labour party have done well. And thirdly, parties in third position get squeezed quite heavily, and we have been.”

Mr Ali went on: “Maybe I didn’t do enough to persuade voters to vote for me as a candidate who was local, who knows? But I want to take this opportunity to wish Debbie Abrahams well on a fantastic result. I’ve always found her civil and courteous, she’s done well and I wish her the best.”

When asked whether he was at all disappointed with the level of support he received from national Conservatives, he replied: “No, I think this was more a press story than reality. And the reality was the Prime Minister broke with convention to come here. The Foreign Secretary came here. The party Chairman spent a lot of time here, and so on. We had a lot of support, and I’m very proud of the campaign they ran.”

On his own future, Mr Ali said: “Tonight’s not the night for speculating about the future and my plans. But what I will always be is an advocate for Oldham people, and play my bit in whatever context I can, to try to make Oldham East and Saddleworth a better place.”

UKIP’s Paul Nuttall just managed to save his deposit in fourth place, while the BNP’s Derek Adams lost his deposit in fifth.

You can listen to the interview with Debbie Abrahams here, the chat with Elwyn Watkins here, and Kashif Ali’s interview here.

The Saddleworth News liveblog of the night as it happened is here. And you can read full coverage of the by-election in the Saddleworth News archive here.

The full result was:

Debbie Abrahams (Labour) 14,718

Elwyn Watkins (Liberal Democrat) 11,160

Kashif Ali (Conservative) 4,481

Paul Nuttall (UKIP) 2,029

Derek Adams (BNP) 1,560

Peter Allen (Green) 530

Nick “The Flying Brick” Delves (Loony) 145

Stephen Morris (English Democrat) 144

Loz Kaye (Pirate Party UK) 98

David Bishop (Bus Pass Elvis Party) 67

Majority: 3,558

Turnout: 48%


  • […] i Oldham East -Saddleworth till det brittiska parlamentet igår, fick piraten Loz Kaye 98 röster av 34932, eller […]

  • Andy Kinsey says:

    A huge huge congrats to Debbie this is a well deserved win, not just for her but for all the activists that have helped her in the past months. This result represents a huge message to downing street, as debbie said in her speech. However this is just step one of many left to go as we approach the local elections, a landslide victory in those will cause an unanswerable question which may cause the government to crumble.

  • helen says:

    Have labour in oldham apologised for woolas yet? What happened to the agent or cllr battye who wanted to make the white folks angry?

  • nick says:

    Well chuffed with that result,

  • John Brooks says:

    Congratulations to Debbie Abrahams.

    Kashif Ali came across as a thoroughly decent bloke. Shame he is a Tory.

    Maybe Mr Watkins should reflect on the content of his election material. It was far from the clean campainging he said he stood for.

  • George says:

    Watkins lost my vote with some of the abysmally negative leaflets and the ridiculous quantity posted.

    Abrahams produced 100% negative attacking leaflets and in her victory speech just attacked everything whilst offering nothing whatsoever. Where is the money coming from Abrahams if you oppose tuition fees increases, EMA cuts and VAT rises?. WHERE ARE YOU GENERATING THE INCOME?

    Abrahams and Labour have no answers. The luxury of opposition where you can oppose everything and jump on bandwaggons galore without consequence.

    I wonder if this comment will again be censored.

  • Paul Grice says:

    Well done to Debbie and her Campaign Team especially for a cleanly run campaign, agree with you John, Kashif Ali was a most honourable opponent unlike Mr Watkins some of the statements / literature was a little on the creative side, his intentions may have been good but not always followed through abit like the rest of the Fib-Dems…Mr Watkins you may have ousted Phil Woolas but at least he had the decency to turn up to the Birks Quarry Enquiry and face the questions..what did you say mmm local man local issues.

  • Ian Coburn says:

    20% of the electorate voting labour is hardly a “huge message”. Even though I didn’t vote for her at least Debbie Abrahams is talking about Saddleworth unlike Mr Ali who keeps rattling on about Oldham. I hope the pledge to “put the borough before Westminster” comes true.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme says:

    The best candidate won. I wouldn’t have voted for Elwyn if he was the Labour candidate and I would have voted for Debbie if she had stood for the Lib Dems.

    Shame about Kashif – nice guy let down by his party.

  • saddbarsteward says:

    Ken – You would have voted for Debbie if she had been Lib Dem? My arse!

    I am just picturing that alternate reality – where the Lib Dems spout the same-old-same-old Labour party dogma.

    Debbie was the Chair at Rochdale primary care trust from 2002-6 where she said (and I quote): “The (Labour) government’s approach is at odds with the core values of the health service”.

    Have the Labour Party altered their approach? – No, they have not. Has she? – Obviously, anything to get voted. Debbie is just another party robot repeating the same old bottom juice – just to get voted in.

    Ah well, isn’t that ever the way – just like every other politician. When are we going to get real constructive politics that actually helps the ordinary working man and woman? Without treating us to their grasp of media training.

  • Cllr Ken Hulme says:

    Dear Saddbarsteward

    I vote for the person as much as for the party they represent.

    Debbie was simply the best – Kashif was OK as well – but Debbie would in my view make a good constituency MP.

  • Tony McCobb says:

    Debbie Abrahams and Labour have still not produced any ideas at all on how to rescue Britain from the financial mess caused by Blair and Brown.

    Labour have still not apologised for telling lies incitng racial hatred.

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