Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

PM David Cameron on campaign trail in by-election ‘he wishes to lose’

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron made political history yesterday by being the first Prime Minister to go campaigning in a by-election which, it is widely suspected, he is desperate to lose.

The Prime Minister did not say that, of course. He insisted the Conservative candidate Kashif Ali was out to win next Thursday's contest in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

“Of course I want people to vote for Kashif Ali,” he said, during a visit to an Oldham car repair shop.

“He's a very good candidate. He fought a very good campaign. He was born locally, he lives locally and he was educated locally.”

He also remarked several times during his brief visit that he was the first Prime Minister to put in a personal appearance in an English by-election campaign for more than 13 years.

What Mr Cameron did not point out was that the precedent he was referring to was Tony Blair's intervention in a by-election in Uxbridge in 1997. It was not a success, as the Conservatives snatched their first by-election win in eight years.

Similarly, one wing of the Conservative Party is silently hoping that this by-election will give the embattled Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg his first election success of 2011.

In the May election Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins came second, only 103 votes behind Labour. Given the humiliating way in which the incumbent Labour MP Phil Woolas was ejected from the Commons after a court ruled he had lied about Mr Watkins during the campaign, the Liberal Democrats ought to be well placed to win.

But what is bedevilling Mr Watkins is not his own record as a candidate, but that of Mr Clegg and other Liberal Democrats.

A past Liberal Democrat supporter, Mrs Aileen Kramer, said: “I've always been Lib Dem but I feel we've been sold out, they have been traitors to themselves.”

Oakham and nearby Rochdale are unusual because the Liberal Democrats have a long-standing electoral base, but if disillusionment with the coalition causes it to melt on Thursday, Clegg will find himself presiding over an unhappy and mutinous party.

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