Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes has urged Saddleworth folk who’ve backed the party in the past to stick with them in the forthcoming by-election. He’s also called on Conservative supporters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems.
Speaking during his fourth visit to our area of the campaign today, Mr Hughes told Saddleworth News that Lib Dem Elwyn Watkins “will have influence in government” if he’s elected on 13 January.
He said: “By-elections are about who your local MP is. The government will be the same government on Friday morning. They should vote for Elwyn because they will have an MP who knows the area like the back of his hand, who is committed to this part of the world.”
Mr Hughes continued: “The choice is between someone who’ll be a backbench opposition MP with no influence, or one of 58 Liberal Democrat MPs in a coalition government where every day we have influence.”
When asked if he’d noticed any change in the campaign over the course of his visits, Mr Hughes replied: “The issues remain the same in the order of priority. The most important thing for most people is jobs, employment and training skills. Secondly, Elwyn is regarded well for having fought the last election and fought it well, come really close, and then been willing to stand up and take on Phil Woolas and the leaflets.”
Mr Hughes then urged Conservatives to think about voting for Mr Watkins, rather than Tory candidate Kashif Ali: “The Tories, though of course they’re fighting a campaign, know they’re in third place and so effectively for Tory voters the question must be, who are they going to support? We’re working very hard to get their votes.”
The Conservatives have rubbished suggestions they don’t have a chance, pointing out that Mr Ali was a close third in May’s general election, and was the only one of the three main party candidates to actually see their number of votes increase.
Mr Hughes added that he was confident Mr Watkins would be able to put the bitterness of past elections behind him and work with politicians from all parties, if he wins the by-election: “Once a decision has made the MP has a duty, and Elwyn will do it as I do it, to work with those of all parties and none… to get the best results.”
He added: “An MP’s job is to be a community leader, to be the voice of the community to government, and to make sure the channels of communication between this part of the world and parliament and government are as open as possible, and he’s very experienced and able to do that.”
Mr Hughes was speaking to me as he canvassed on and around Huddersfield Road in Oldham today. He’d earlier visited the Orme Street Mosque in Glodwick, where he met worshippers after Friday prayers.
You can listen to the interview in full here.
A total of ten candidates are standing in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. You can get in-depth interviews with Labour’s Debbie Abrahams here, BNP candidate Derek Adams here, Conservative Kashif Ali here, Peter Allen of the Greens here, Pirate Party UK candidate Loz Kaye here, Stephen Morris of the English Democrats here, UKIP candidate Paul Nuttall here and Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins here.
The other candidates are David Bishop of the Bus Pass Elvis Party and Nick “The Flying Brick” Delves from the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Polling day is on Thursday. Lots of senior politicians have been campaigning in our area in recent weeks, and you can read and listen to David Cameron’s interview with Saddleworth News here. You can hear from Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi is here.
An interview with the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is here, while a chat with Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable is here. There are interviews with Labour leader Ed Miliband here and here, and Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson here. UKIP leader Nigel Farage spoke to Saddleworth News here.
To read full coverage of the by-election so far from Saddleworth News, click here.
The pictures were taken by Diggle-based Stuart Coleman of Stuart Coleman Photography. To see more examples of his work, look at his website here.