Thursday, January 06, 2011
Why I'm not going to Oldham East and Saddleworth
I won't be joining the huge number of Liberal Democrats from all over the country who are flocking in ever increasing numbers to Oldham East and Saddleworth - and I'm absolutely heartbroken about it.
In 1995, the last time there was a by-election in the area, I spent a substantial part of the campaign there - we even had our Summer holiday staying in a wee farmhouse bed and breakfast somewhere between Shaw and Delph, I think. I was trying to find it the other day with no success.
Anyway, we had a marvellous time there and totally fell in love with the beautiful countryside. I met friends for life there, too.
I would totally love to be there again just now, but dodgy health and snow are two insurmountable barriers for me and I'd be more of a liability than a help. On this occasion, I've had to stick to making a donation to support Elwyn Watkins' campaign.
I have huge respect for Elwyn for taking on the Labour Party and Phil Woolas, whose lies blighted the General Election campaign. Labour's nasty campaigns have often made me shudder over the years, and there have been a number of occasions when they have gone way too far. It's good to see that they have been finally brought to book over it.
There's no getting away from the fact that this is a challenging election for us. All the reports I've heard from people who have been out on the streets across the whole country have been very positive and indicate that our vote is holding up. Whether there's been enough time, in a brief campaign in the middle of the harshest Winter in living memory, to get the message across of the positive influence the Liberal Democrats have had within the Coalition remains to be seen. The more Liberal Democrats who go to Oldham and spend hours delivering leaflets, the better.
It's all down to whether people want a good, local MP, who will fight hard for them, as Liberal Democrat MPs are renowned for doing, or a representative from a Labour Party who behaved in such an illiberal and authoritarian way in government, who takes no responsibility for the economic mess the country is in and who would have made similar cuts in public spending to the coalition. Remember it was Alistair Darling who talked about the necessity for cuts bigger than Thatcher's. Don't think for a minute that Labour would have abolished tuition fees or protected universities from cuts in teaching staff. Remember that their own manifesto stated that they'd make similar cuts in housing benefit to the Coalition's (not that I support that, but that's another story). Labour's entire strategy seems to be to oppose everything the Coalition does without telling us what they would do instead. It's deceitful, cynical and opportunistic and I hope the voters will not react well to being manipulated in that way.
I am gutted that I can't be down there supporting Elwyn Watkins' campaign. I'm hoping that at least one of you, who wasn't intending to go, will head there in my place between now and next Thursday and campaign for Elwyn.
As an added incentive, I know how Liberal Democrats are into their science geekery. And you never know whose door you could be knocking on. I have no idea whether Professor Brian Cox actually lives in the constituency or not, but he was born in Oldham and was certainly there the other day, as this tweet shows: