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Proof of low key Tory campaign in by-election

Michael Crick | 18:44 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

The Conservative's spent less than £40,000 on their campaign in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election last month, less than half as much as either Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

Spending figures released by Oldham council tonight support accusations that the Conservatives ran a low key campaign in the by-election in order to help their Lib Dem coalition colleagues.

The figures submitted by each of the major parties to the local election authorities by the deadline of today (Friday) show that each of the major parties spent as follows:

Cons £39,432
Lab £97, 085
Lib Dem £94,540
UKIP £43,855

These figures show that while Labour (who won) and the Liberal Democrats (who came second) both spent close to the legal spending limit for a by-election of £100,000, the Conservatives spent less than 40% of what they were legally entitled to.

Throughout the campaign the Conservatives denied accusations that they were not taking the by-election seriously.

Rivals campaigns and journalists (including myself for Newsnight) observed that the Conservative organisation in Oldham East and Saddleworth was not on the scale one would traditionally expects in a by-election in which the party had a good chance of winning.

Tonight's figures show that even UKIP spent £4000 more than the Conservatives.


  • Comment number 1.


    Here's a quote from Devious Dav'e speech - verbatim:

    "Can you imagine giving the gold medal to someone who finishes third?"

    Well Dave - we can certainly imagine the sort of cad who HELPS HIMSELF TO THE GOLD MEDAL by subverting the rules. What a bounder.

  • Comment number 2.


    As I remember, they sent 100 MPs To Sad and Old. Might Crick check who went? Were they the least lovely - if that has meaning? I am reminded that Jeremy Hardy, god of comedy - peas and potatoes be upon him - once said of the Tories that if you came across a group of them, you might think there had been a nuclear accident.

    Nuff sed.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Can you imagine giving the gold medal to someone who finishes third?"

    Regardless of one's views on the merits of AV, I thought this a ludicrous comparison, almost enough to make me vote for it!

  • Comment number 4.


    I am still marking Dave and Nick's homework. Incredible as it may seem, I DON'T THINK EITHER OF THEM HANDED IN THEIR OWN WORK.

    A previous pupil of mine, One Anthony Blair, used to get others to do his homework too (went on to be Interfaith Pope I hear).

    Anyway: whoever wrote Dave's offering, it has all the little nuances he loves, though the writer could have used 'incredible' more. I think the finest moment was: "Nick Believes" set cleverly against: "I profoundly believe" with, perhaps, "This is really important" (a heading) a close second.

    It would appear that a mate of Dave's, pretending to be Nick's friend (not the first time he's been fooled) wrote his speech. Nick keeps shooting himself in the head throughout. I was more than impressed where Nick says he and Dave agree that "the people know best" but then he sets about telling 'the people' what they should know. Doh! I don't know how he dares to go home.

  • Comment number 5.

    Perhaps this is the tories practicing what they preach and subjecting themselves to tough spending cuts. Or perhaps not.

  • Comment number 6.

    Well done. You have discovered the con. Both Cameron and Clegg agree with me that the first past the post system effectively disenfranchises around half the electorate and encourages low electoral turn-outs and leads MPs to think they have a job for life. I mean, it's a total no brainer - nobody with more than one functional synapse in their nervous system can fail to accept that the case for the AV is unassailable.

    However, right at the get-go of the coalition this was the one thing Clegg would not budge on and Cameron, however much he could see the truth, could never be seen to be supporting.

    As a positive non-interventionist there has never, and probably never will be a party that I can actually support. I also live in a constituency where Labour will win every election from now until the next glacial maximum. Why should I bother to vote? Answer, no reason, my vote is meaningless and worthless.

    I'm sure Labour voters in 'safe' Conservative seats also feel they are effectively deprived of any democratic right to contribute to the outcome of a general election for the same reason.

    Only the AV breaks the cycle and restores a whiff of true democracy back to our electoral system. I think Cameron agrees but because he is the leader of the party he is leader of he can't be seen to agree.

    As for the figures cited above. What part of the meaning of the word coalition is it that is making those figures so repugnant to Michael? Is the UK somehow exempt from the realpolitik? Hell, we'd probably have invented it if Rochau hadn't got there first!

  • Comment number 7.

    it may be the best thing to may be the best thing for democracy.....civilisation may progress...but while that lying, todying, miserable excuse for a leader is heading the campaign I can only vote against, the image of that man with his promise to the students that he will ABOLISH tuition fees and then TREBLE them is a trust too far so, if I could, I would vote a thousand times NO...No...No

  • Comment number 8.


    For the mass of MPs its a game and for the rich ones a hobby. Fundamental change is our only escape from its infection.
    Dave is a symptom of the Malaise - as was Tony, as is Nick, as was Maggie, as was Brown. It is just like the Curse of the Ring: it 'brings them all and in the darkness binds them'. THEY just call it 'politics', and feel nothing of their slow, inexorable degradation.

    Surely we have all seen what 'The Ring' has done to Tony?


  • Comment number 9.

    I recall seeing Dave delivering leaflets.

    I presume the Tories were charged for his time which I and other taxpayers pay for.

  • Comment number 10.

    'Rivals campaigns and journalists (including myself for Newsnight)'

    But for (despite?) an errant apostrophe or comma, one could almost have seen that as another BBC NaughtieMarr moment.

    Quick, get Polly or that Labour pol on to rail against corporate tax avoidance and the complicit governments who allow(ed) such things that stir the twitterati (and provides various 'news' media with such sources)!!!!!

    That would in no way be a con designed to deceive viewers (the very idea; just ask the Queen, Blue Peter kids, readers of less represented front pages today...); that would merely be 'unique'.

  • Comment number 11.

    Congratulations to Labour's Debbie Abrahams who won the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election (with an increased majority).
    I don't quite understand the disappointment for LibDem candidate Elwyn Watkins since Oldham East and Saddleworth has historically been Labour territory.
    Strikingly, Labour's majority and vote share was higher than in the 1997 General Election. The Coalition parties saw their joint share fall. The swing from LibDem and Conservative to Labour was 11.8%. Incidentally, this swing is what current opinion polls are showing.
    I thought turnout (48%) was rather good for a by-election held in January.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Proof of low key Tory campaign in by-election" is the title of Mr Crick's blog referring to the by-election called due to the exit of the disgraced Phil Woolas Labour MP?

    Well, there are many fights in politics - but that Tories are choosing their battles more 'carefully' in more uncertain times - is not surprising?

    You can win some of the people - but Britain is a very different country since the last Conservative administration that left destruction in it's wake, but refuse to admit the facts?

    Perhaps the Conservative Party have grown up; even matured enough to see their horrendous policies that drove mortgages to 15% and used the police to beat up striking miners?

    Yes, union leaders, before the election that brought Margaret Thatcher to power, overplayed their hand and became all about fighting and less about collaboration. However, there was stubborn behaviour on both sides - but the media only reported one side?

    Since those times, Britain doesn't own it's own water supplies; nor half it's own land or productive arable farms anymore. Furthermore, you can chase the best gas/electric price all you like on price comparison sites who make commission on your change.

    Get real - as long as Britain's government continues to procrastinate on home grown energy supplies - we are stuffed. Without secure energy supplies - nothing runs... sewerage plants; fresh water pumping stations; chilled food distribution centres; hospitals etc., etc. All the basics we rely on are nothing without a secure electricity supply system?

    It's not enough for the Green Party to whinge about or fight against nuclear energy. France has the most nuclear power stations in Europe - are the French complaining? They are laughing at our stupidity of relying on oil, coal and gas.

  • Comment number 13.

    We didn't need these numbers as proof. The ridiculous sight of DC delivering leaflets and the faux outrage of Baroness Warsi against those in her own party was proof enough that the Tories felt the need to shore up on this in public while doing all but shout VOTE LIBDEM in private.

    Coalition versus Labour less than a year after the last election should be a complete mismatch. This by-election and latest polls (consistent over 3 months) show that its not. Whats worrying is that the example in Oldham coud be carried forward and that would be bad for our democracy. In fact either first past the post or AV would provide coalition with plenty of gerrymandering opportunities.

    On a different note, why on earth did UKIP waste £40k on an election they could never ever win? They should stick to childish insults in the Euro parliament by the looks of things.

  • Comment number 14.

    7. and 8.

    In the dark art of politics aka power mongering, Nick Clegg is, next to Alex Salmond, imho the prime exponent in the UK. However there is one thing that no politician can control, and that is the detailed briefing (minus all the spin) of the true state of the nation they receive when they become the government.

    Thatcher's politics were dictated to her by the IMF, who had refused the post-WW2 socialists, who had seduced us with the idealistic fantasy of Beveridge's welfare state report, any further loans to bolster their failed experiment.

    The cycle repeated itself again only this time, because of a hiccup (relative to the real problems in our economy) in international investment banking allowed an insane knee-jerk squandering of billions of pounds of state borrowed and printed money that has created the post-Labour hole we now have to dig ourselves out of, that could be with us, or should I say our descendants, for the best part of a century to come.

    As a positive non-interventionist I know what amounts to our only hope. It involves the slashing of taxes, including making our corporation tax the lowest in the world. Obviously the NHS would have to go, but hey the Germans never had one and they seem to be OK, and look at their rate of recovery compared to ours.

    Socialism's achievements,

    - UK labour force so uncompetitive on world markets that even prawns caught in the North Sea have to flown out to Thailand to be hand peeled before being flown back for sale here, plus a never ending list of UK companies outsourced, and outsourcing overseas.

    - Non-working families on benefits better off across the board (including Gordon's free lap-tops) than working low income families.

    -Public sector (also the most unionised sector) pensions so disproportionally high that the only way for the government to pay them is to increase the taxation of those in the private sector whose pensions are already far less in comparison!


    Yes UK post-WW2 socialism is one of the biggest affronts to human intelligence since... ever. I, like many I'm sure, struggle to understand it. For myself the main failing seemed to be in the ongoing denial about the fact that we are engaged in an extremely competitive and sophisticated relationship with the rest of the world.

    My wife's grandfather and great-uncle both fought in both the World wars. Who can really blame them for believing the rest of the world owed us a favour? It should have been the responsibility of the government to show that that was not the case. Sad then that it was populism not honesty and realism that led to Labour's victory after the war ended that created the welfare state (not to mention billions in debt to the US that was finally paid off by Blair).

    So to me Nick Clegg like Robert Peel gains integrity and my respect every time he changes his mind. Try it tomorrow - try and count how many times you change your mind in 24 hours, then ask why we expect politicians never to have to change theirs.

    Homework- what is a 'secondary tax consumer'?

  • Comment number 15.

    14. I'm afraid ignorance and prejudice is no sunstitute for scholarship. For an insight into the result of the 1945 general election try examining the actual outcomes of the post WW1 'land fit for heroes' politics. Perhaps mass unemployment and declining starvation wages might have left generational scars. However, since your opinions seemed to have been shaped by certain tabloids I expect I'm wasting my time. Next time try providing some figures for your assertions on public versus private pensions, the average public service pension is the princely sum of £7,000 pa, paid for I may add, by a lifetimes' contributions.
    Regards, etc.

  • Comment number 16.

    15. It is possible to take the origins of the UK's internecine politics back to the reign of Henry the 8th. For myself I don't think it's helpful or fair to stop there. We are actually, like everyone else, the ongoing victims of our failure, as tribal primates, to educate ourselves out of our hard-wired instinctive tribal view of reality.

    When Brown spoke of 'the fields of Eton' he was deliberately inciting that kind of tribal (aka class) divisive hatred and mistrust in a desperate bid to hang on to power. His successors are no better.

    As for your public sector pension poverty assertion, rather than accuse me of ignorance, why don't you listen to the in depth interview on BBC News 24 yesterday that inspired my comments. If you are dissatisfied with your public sector pension perhaps you should reflect on where the money comes from that pays it out every week. Regardless of how hard you undoubtedly worked throughout your career you were paid with money the government had to either get from the tax payers, borrow, or print, and in every year of your service the actual value of every pound you were paid steadily fell. Public sector pension provision obligations are now an important component of our £4.8 trillion national debt.

    Of course the 'land fit for heroes' was a post-WW1 slogan, and of course the social injustices of the time (currently re-visited rather brilliantly in the new series South Riding on BBC1 last night) more than warranted the arguments for a more egalitarian society. However imho a political movement that has serially failed to give the necessary consideration to our need to survive in a highly competitive and exploitative world, and instead tries to create a false microcosm in which the emotive arguments of the past dominate, is creating a recipe for disaster. A disaster the coalition is now desperately trying to avert.

    I can't remember when I last read a 'tabloid'. I imagine you're a subscriber to the Daily Mirror perhaps?

    PS 'scholarship' over 'ignorance and prejudice' advocate- what is a 'secondary tax consumer'? Clue- if you don't know you are not qualified to hold an opinion on the UK's economy.

  • Comment number 17.

    TMR. It just goes to show what a foolhardy pastime it is getting involved in differences of opinion on largely irrelevant postings which have strayed some distance from the point of the blog. Not that it matters much but my current affairs reading is confined to 'The Economist' and my pension is private, obviously of no real concern to your rarefied self. The next time I bother to read anything of yours I'm sure it will be in 'Psueds Corner'.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh dear TMR @ 16 - you've 'borrowed' all your latest ideas from that arch right of genghis khan winger Martin Durkin haven't you! Oops a daisy, unless of course you are the 'great' man himself. Let me guess, you switch all your radiators on to full blast because you heard him say that global warming is all a big leftie conspiracy.

    Your views are your views but dont use imho (maybe just imo) when its just cribbed from others - or at least attribute.

  • Comment number 19.

    17 and 18

    I apologise for going so far off topic. I was trying to counter the comments of 7 who appeared to want to vote against AV, not because he disagreed with it but because of who was heading the campaign in it's support.

    " ...but while that lying, todying, miserable excuse for a leader is heading the campaign I can only vote against, the image of that man with his promise to the students that he will ABOLISH tuition fees and then TREBLE them is a trust too far ".

    Obviously the AV would have all parties going for the maximum number of votes in every seat in a general election. With the advent of coalition politics by elections might continue to tempt one coalition party to spend less on campaigning in favour of a coalition partner more likely to win. I don't know how you can get round that in the case of by elections.

    True my views are my views, not original of course (what is?)but largely reached on my own. My influences are 56 in number. My birthday is in September by which time they will number 57, that being length of time living in this country, watching and listening to what's going on around me as well as digesting more radio and TV news and documentaries including Newsnight than is probably healthy.

    Last year CH4 broadcast a film/documentary called 'Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Show' (still available on CH 4's web site I think) by film maker Martin Durkin who I'd never heard of before then. For myself I was impressed with the film and through it I came to hear about JJ Cowperthwaite and in further research on-line about positive non-interventionism which seemed to resonate with the way I'd started to think.

    I am unlikely to agree with what you say are Durkin's views on climate change, as my reading matter of choice is the science journal Nature.

    Once again, apologies, I'll stay on topic in future if I post on this site again!

  • Comment number 20.

    What about Eire and the decimation of Fianna Fail?

    As the man who praised the "economic miracle" of Ireland, George Osborne looks pretty silly as his mates in Fianna Fail are consigned to the dustbin of history.

    Are the backbench members of the PCP getting windy? They should be. Osborne's deep and rapid cuts plan is far too close to Fianna Fail's - and we now know where that leads to. The UK now also faces an oil price explosion that was never part of the Osborne scenario - with the economy already teetering on the brink of recession, taking £110 Bn out of the economy looks close to suicidal.

    The British public are going to visit the same verdict on the Tories as the Irish have on Fianna Fail if we go over the same economic cliff, and in coalition with the LibDems both coalition partners are going to be hung out to dry by the electorate if the UK follows Eire.

    What of an incoming Labour government? The left would have carte blanche to take on the banks, to bring in drastic regulation and to come down hard on the Tories traditional supporters. Things the Tories hold sacred would be taken apart - private education, the City and wealth taxation. There is no longer any such thing as "New" Labour...

    There is one hell of a lot for backbench Tory MPs to worry about - if Osborne has got it wrong, the price they and their supporters will pay is probably a price they are not prepared to take the risk for to support the libertarians mission to "roll back the State" - so Michael, what's the mood music on the Tory back benches after the demise of Fianna Fail and the consignment of their Irish political alies to the political wilderness for a generation?

    "wer;e all in this together" is actually true if you're a backbench Tory or LibDem MP....


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