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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Campaigning in Old and Sad

The Guardian reports on Nick Clegg's visit to the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election and his robust defence of the UK Coalition's tuition fee policy:

On a flying visit to the Lancashire three-way marginal, which has been won by all three parties in the past 20 years, the deputy prime minister combined a positive message about the coalition's help for children, students and pensioners with repeated attacks on Labour's record under Gordon Brown and "under the duvet" evasion since Ed Miliband became leader.

Admitting it is proving hard to get the tuition fees message across after last month's student protests, Clegg said the "paradox" was that though fees will go up – to £9,000 a year at top universities – "as more young people look at the scheme, they will realise that it will be cheaper and easier to go to university than it is now," especially for "bright kids from poor families".

He said that a social care worker on £21,000 a year, on an average career path, would pay back £7 a month, compared with £80 under Labour's current scheme. "A majority of graduates will not pay back all their loans," he told voters in meetings and media exchanges.

The Liberal Democrat Leader linked former MP Phil Woolas's ejection from parliament after he was found to have lied about Liberal Democrat rival Elwyn Watkins to Labour's economic record:

He said Labour had "robbed" Britain of billions, just as the local MP had "robbed" voters of a fair election. Labour won the seat by just 103 votes, only to lose in court.

Denouncing the "outrageous" behaviour – for which neither Woolas nor Labour have apologised, he said – Clegg accused the former MP of having been found guilty of "lying his way through the campaign and of stoking up racial tensions," a reference to the legacy of three days of riots in 2001. Labour is certain to dispute that description.

I will be taking a party up to help out at the by-election on Saturday. I might discover then whether Paddy Power was right or not to argue that “Victory for the Lib Dems in Oldham is now as unlikely as Manchester United finishing at the bottom of this year’s Premier League with Roy Keane in charge!”

Unfortunately, as Liberal Democrat Voice found out the on-line bookies were not prepared to match their boast with their wallets, drawing a blank with an offer to bet £20 at 949/1 that the Lib Dems will win Oldham. Mike Smithson of the Political Betting website also found Paddy Power reluctant to put their money where their mouth is. He reports that when he tried to bet on the Lib Dems at 7/2, the most they would let him put on was 51 pence.
Ladbrokes will give you 7-1 on an LD victory and would have let me bet £200.

I didn't.
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