14 Jan 2011

Lib Dems look on the bright side

Lib Dem Ministers have been chatting about Oldham in the Grimond Room of Portcullis House. They had 20 minutes on the subject before starting a pre-arranged seminar with civil servants and the Institute of Government (proprietor: one Lord Adonis who tried to get them into bed with Labour after the General Election).

The mood was pretty positive. Most if not all those in the room had campaigned in Oldham and seen for themselves that in a seat where there is a lively party activist base they can hold onto their share of the vote even when there’s a VAT rise, tuition fees revolt and spending cuts flying around.

Truth is, though, the Lib Dems didn’t “hold their vote” – they lost votes and got some new ones, Tory ones. How many? It could be a third of the Lib Dem votes but we don’t know for sure. But there was “a huge amount of churn” a very senior Lib Dem told me.

There was clearly a moment yesterday when the Lib Dems dared to think they might even win the seat. That was before hundreds of Labour supporters, many coordinated by trade unions, piled into the seat and got the “after work” vote out.

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