Oldham East and Saddleworth: Election Day liveblog

Fight for Oldham EastBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

02.09: Right everyone, over fifteen hours after we started, this by-election liveblog is signing off on a successful night for Labour in the North-West. One by-election swallow certainly won’t make a political summer for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, but this is an electoral hurdle cleared.

Don’t forget to check back first thing omorrow morning for our verdict on Oldham East.

Thanks for sticking with us throughout the day, and goodnight.

02.00: Speaking to the BBC, Abrahams says she’ll be heading to thank all of her volunteers tonight. I suspect the party will go on late tonight.

01.57: Labour’s vote rose by 600 since May (despite a lower turnout), the Lib Dem vote fell by 3000.

01.52: Abrahams victory speech is a denunciation of the coalition government – the biggest cheer is for the founding of the Labour Party as working people realised “that the Liberal Party isn’t for them”.

01.46: Here’s what we’ve been waiting for all this time – the result:

Labour: 14718
Lib Dem: 11160
Conservative: 4481

Congratulations to Debbie Abrahams – Labour’s newest MP.

Majority of over 3000

01.42: At the count, Andy Burnham has allegedly said:

“While Labour were up the hills of Saddleworth, the Tories were skiing down the hills of Klosters.”

01.38: The candidates are being called forward, it’s nearly time.

01.21: There’s little left to be said now before the results are confirmed. Lib Dem Elwyn Watkins is now in the building, so the result must be near. He wouldn’t be turning up any sooner than he had to tonight.

01.11: Andy Burnham doesn’t seem as reticent as he was (00.38). Cheering, flowers and applause for Debbie Abrahams in the hall. This photo certainly suggests that she’s won (hat-tip: Saddleworth News):

Debbie Abrahams Count

01.07: Debbie Abrahams is now at the count, which indidates the result will be announced soon. It seems certain she’ll leave the count as Labour’s newest MP.

01.05: Some important numbers to keep an eye on when the results come throug are the results from May:

Labour: 14,186 – 31.9%
Lib Dems: 14,083 – 31.6%
Conservatives: 11,773 – 26.4%

Turnout: 44,520 – 61.2%

It is possible that the Labour vote will increase, despite a lower turnout…

00.52: Tim Farron is trying to spin finishing 2nd as a great result for the Lib Dems on the BBC. He should stop, because it isn’t. He’s now gone on to call tonight a score draw…

00.41: Over at the Guardian, Andrew Sparrow has been told by a senior Labour source that the party has a 45% vote share. That would certainly chime with the 3-5000 majority we’re expecting.

00.38: Andy Burnham is still on script on BBC1 and says that the result isn’t in the bag yet, but says the Tory vote will be the story tonight. That’s fair enough, but it’s not even mind games now. Labour have won.

00.33: There’s trouble in the Tory camp tonight, and the attacks on the party will be harsh from activists. ConHome editor Tim Montgomerie says:

“Michael Fallon insulting our intelligence on BBC1. Insisting Tories fought a full-blooded campaign”

00.26: The night of number spinning continues. Now it seems the Tories are over-spinning Labour’s victory – Saddleworth News says they’re suggesting Labour has won by 6-7000 votes. That way they can claim a lower Labour win isn’t a big deal.

00.21: The Lib Dems are now spinning that they were always fighting for a respectable second place. This wasn’t something they were saying until the count though. Coincidence? Also, without wanting to make a further prediction, keep an eye on how close the Tory and UKIP votes are – as the Tory vote moves to the Lib Dems, who came 3rd?

00.17: The verification process is complete and the “real” counting of votes begins. For those who have never had the “pleasure” of a count, verification ensures that all votes are present (i.e. that the right number of votes are there to be counted), but eagle-eyed supporters will be able to sample the ballots by taking a peek as they’re verified. These insights allow number crunching and the prediction of the result.

In many ways, the counting of the votes is a formality, but the candidates often don’t appear until we reach this stage, so they know how they’ve done before they appear in public.

00.10: Laura Kuenssberg says that turnout is 48%, which is good considering turnout back in May way 61%. The conceding has gone right to the top of the Lib Dem tree – President Tim Farron admits they’ve lost.

00.03: As our liveblog enters the second day, the excellent Saddleworth News (who have been an invaluable resource throughout the Oldham race), are saying that Labour performed better than expected in Saddleworth. In other words, the Lib Dem vote collapsed more than expected.

23.56: The word is that the Lib Dems have conceded defeat. The candidates will soon assemble, and we get to hear the size of Labour’s victory here in Oldham. One thing’s for sure, the majority will be up on May.

23.45: Our prediction appears to have been somewhat conservative (small c, of course). Labour’s margin of victory seems more likely to be between 3 and 5000.

That’s still guesswork of course, but educated guesswork. We should have an announcement in the next 90 minutes.

23.35: Liveblogging means a truncated “Ed’s inbox” today, but it’s an Oldham special. The following are well worth a read:

– John McTernan has a witty write-up of what the parties will say in Oldham for the Telegraph

– Over at the Wall Street Journal, Iain Martin notes that David Miliband is back in Manchester

– A document has come into the posession of Tom Watson that suggests Clegg is holding a post-Oldham post-mortem tomorrow

– Did you know that Oldham has something of a history of by-elections?

– Paul Richards has praised the “alarm clock heroes” in Oldham in his LabourList blog

23.30: Former Blair adviser John McTernan is predicting a Labour victory by 5,000 votes.

23.15: As I said at 22.52, it looks like a Labour win. I’m willing to go out on a limb and predict that Labour will win, with a majority probably in the 1000-1500 region. Of course this comes with all of the usual caveats, including (22.52 again) – who do you trust?

22.59: News from another by-election. Have Labour had a shock win in Camborne North? We’ll let you know as soon as we know – but the suggestion is that Labour have gone from fifth to first.

22.52: The big question at this time of a count is “who do you listen to?” Andy Burnham has told Saddleworth News that there could be just a few hundred votes in it. Is he playing the expectation game though? Joey Jones from Sky News says that there has been a late surge to Labour, and it looks like a Labour win…

It does look like a Labour win. All of the signs point to that. The question may just be the size – narrow or significant? We’ll know in the next few hours.

22.50: Some bright spark is filming the count and streaming it live.You may all crash the feed by having a look, but you can see it here.

Update: It seems that the volume of traffic from here has downed the video. If/when another appears we’ll let you know.

22.45: Another point on turnout (see 22.40) – Labour are stressing that the turnout is higher in Saddleworth (Lib Dem stronghold) than Oldham (labour stronghold). I identified that as a risk yesterday, so it’s no surprise. Still a concern though…

22.40: The BBC are saying that turnout is between 40 and 45% (down from 61% in May). I’d expect the number to be more towards the 45% mark, and that should be enough for Labour. However, political betting group Smarkets have seen a late decline in the likelihood of a Labour win – from 98% to 92% – since close of polls…

22.20: By contrast Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC understands that the result is going to be tight – she’s probably right. It’s unlikely that anyone has secured a crushing victory. We should begin to have an idea of the result from the reaction to the postal vote validation.

22.17: We’re hearing there’s an exit poll from a local radio station that has Labour on 56%, Lib Dems 27%, and the Conservatives way behind on 9%. So the Lib Dem squeeze seems to have worked. But could Labour really be about to win by 30%?

22.15: The count has begun, and we’re back to take you through to the result and beyond. The postal votes are being counted as the ballot boxes arrive. The mood in the Labour campaign is positive. Privately they expect a good turnout, which (if canvassing is accurate) should return a Labour win.

18.00: There are plenty of rumours floating around about turnout. Some people have suggested it could be as low as 25% (which would be bad for Labour), but a source close to the campaign told me a few moments ago that turnout could even be as high as 50%. In a few hours, we’ll know who was right. I’ll be back to cover the count (and the nervous wait for the results) from 10pm. Keep following us on Twitter until then for further updates.

17.45: Former Blair staffer John McTernan has a witty write-up in the Telegraph of what you’ll hear from each of the parties after tonight’s results from Oldham are in.

17.05: Labour Uncut have a letter to Jon Trickett MP from Gus O’Donnell over the minister apology (17.05) – it appears that the minister has apologised, but there doesn’t seem to be a rule breach (as far as Gus O’Donnell appears to be concerned). As Political Scrapbook suggested, it was due to a potential breach of purdah relating to an announcement on housing.

16.54: Political Scrapbook are reporting that a minister has been forced to apologise over a by-election rules breach – and suspect it’s either breach of purdah or or to Section 20 of the Special Advisers code of conduct…

16.15: Labour MP Stella Creasy has just tweeted the result of a vote in parliament – 271 coalition MPs to 92 Labour MPs. It seems that some parties are sending more MPs to Oldham than others…

15.55: More word from the ground. The Lib Dems seem to be panicking – our source tells us that they’ve put an email out to their press people telling them to dampen expectations.

It’s by no means over yet – but that meeting tomorrow is less likely to be a victory party than the Libs might have hoped…

15.42: David Miliband is now in Oldham and back on the campaign trail, campaigning near Greenfield Train Station. He’s also using the audioboo software that he used through the leadership campaign, and makes a prediction (of sorts) that Labour will get 39.8% of the vote (from an unrepresentative sample). 40% would probably secure victory, so we hope David is right. He promises more updates later. We’ll being those to you as they come in.

15.07: Over at the Wall Street Journal, Iain Martin notes that David Miliband is back in Manchester (see 11.46), and manages to make a compelling case for him steering clear of the city. A brief avoid list? Brothers and bananas…

14.51: During the early afternoon lull (see 13.38) I’ve been having a look at some ofthe videos that different parties have made for this by-election. My favourite (below) features Sarah Teather (who else), who tries to coax activists into the constituency by telling them they’ll be feeling fat. I’m not saying they sound desperate, but…

14.46: Joey News from Sky News has posted this video, asking who will be most disappointed if they fail to win. I’m afraid it’s Labour – on current opinion polls we should be trouncing the Lib Dems. But will we? You’ll have to stick around till late tonight to find out – keep refreshing this page for updates throughout the afternoon.

14.15: Alex Stevenson has got a remarkable post, simply titled “Bigots” over at politics.co.uk. It seems that Alex had some similar experiences to the ones I had on Sunday, but his were more extreme. Be in no doubt, this by-election is taking place in a divided community.

14.00: A document has come into the posession of Tom Watson that suggests Clegg is holding a post-Oldham post-mortem tomorrow, which Tom suggests will be taking place win or lose…

13.38: We’re into the early afternoon lull in the by-election. They all have them – the point when people want to have lunch and a sit down, but before it gets dark and the panic sets in. We’re assuming everyone will be working up to 10pm tonight – it could be that close.

13.00: Did you know that Oldham has something of a history of by-elections? Is this some kind of record?

12.04: Paul Richards has praised the “alarm clock heroes” in Oldham in his LabourList blog – he’s also said a May general election isn’t as far fetched as it sounds…

11.49: Pollsters Suravation – who said that Labour was leading by just one point from the Lib Dems in Oldham – have given their final word/defence of their position, over at their site.

11.46: David Miliband is on his way to Oldham. Fresh from his appointment at Sunderland Football Club, he’ll certainly be keen to get stuck into the cut and thrust of campaigning. He’ll want a good by-election result for his brother. Won’t he?

11.27: What has Labour’s candidate Debbie Abrahams been doing this morning? Good question. She’s been meeting traders at Shaw Market, where this photo was taken. I think there’s a fair chance the couple running that sweet shop will be voting Labour, don’t you?

11.14: Seemingly the PM was in Oldham yesterday, but only fleetingly – he spent most of his time hiding out in a hotel frequented by Daily Mirror hacks. Oh dear. Kevin Maguire has the story…

11.01: Enough about the weather, what about the factors that Labour can control? We’re hearing from those on the ground that the numbers are looking good this morning. That’s certainly good news, especially as the party had been (rightly) trying to play down expectations before polling day.

10.56: Oh dear BBC weather, you’ve let us all down. Apparently it’s now raining in Oldham. Time for canvassers to get the waterproofs on and the umbrellas out. This will make Labour’s task harder as they seek to push up turnout.

10.47: It had been suggested that it was going to rain in Oldham today, which might lower turnout and make Labour’s task more difficult. Fortunately that’s not the case. The BBC reports a “light rain shower” but fortunately not until mdnight tonight, after voting has closed.

Update: Politics.co.uk have obviously have a different weather report. They say conditions are “gloomy”.

10.40: Voting has been underway in the crucial by-election of Oldham East and Saddleworth for nearly four hours now – and we’re hearing that the response has been positive for Labour this morning. We’ll be bringing you all of the news, action and reaction from the by-election right through to the result in the early hours of the morning. As we said yesterday this isn’t over yet, so organisation today is crucial in pushing up all important turnout.

More from LabourList