UK Politics

In quotes: Reaction to Oldham by-election result

Reaction to Labour's victory in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election.

ED MILIBAND - Labour leader

This is the first step in a long journey for Labour. But more importantly, I hope the government will listen to what they've said about those key issues. I think the voters have sent a very clear message. They've said to the government: 'Think again on VAT, think again on the trebling of tuition fees, think again on the police cuts that are going to affect their communities'.

NICK CLEGG - Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister

This was a very hard-fought contest but we were not able to gain this Labour seat on this occasion. I am proud of each and every one of the hundreds of activists and volunteers who have brought the fight to Labour's front door in a way that will have confounded our critics. It was always going to be a big ask to take this seat from Labour, given the circumstances. We are undertaking some enormously difficult decisions because Labour left Britain's economy in a mess.

DAVID CAMERON - Prime minister and Conservative leader

I think we fought a good campaign. Our candidate, Kashif Ali, was a strong candidate, I was one of the first prime ministers for many many years to campaign personally in an English by-election. I enjoyed doing that, I'm proud of the campaign we fought. But of course we started in third place, we ended in third place, and that's often the way with by-elections.

DEBBIE ABRAHAMS - Winning Labour candidate

This by-election result is the first step in a long journey ahead for the Labour party under Ed Miliband's leadership. The voters have spoken for the country. They have sent a clear message to those watching in Downing Street. Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg, you may be watching but now you have to listen. Across the country there is growing anger against your reckless policies, your broken promises and your unfair cuts.

TIM FARRON - Lib Dem president

I hate losing. Of course I wanted to win but in the scheme of things it is a result that is more than satisfactory for us. We were told we were going to come fourth here a couple of weeks ago. I think we have come a decent second... "This is massively reassuring for us. It has been cathartic. It has brought us together as a party.

BARONESS WARSI - Conservative Party co-chairman

Labour held on to a seat that they have held on to since 1997 when the seat was created and, indeed, a seat they held on to in 2010 during a time they had bad election results across the country... What we did at this election was to fight this election robustly, strongly with a good candidate. But inevitably we started off in third place, our vote was squeezed and therefore our vote share went down.

YVETTE COOPER - shadow foreign secretary

We obviously saw a big improvement in our results since the election and a swing from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, which I think shows how angry a lot of people are about things like the cuts to VAT, the cuts to the police, but also tuition fees came up a lot... David Cameron didn't run a strong campaign, and obviously was quite keen for the Liberal vote to increase... I think if you look at the combined vote of the two parties together, they obviously did quite a bit of swapping votes between them, but look at their combined vote together it does show quite a significant swing away from the government parties.

SIMON HUGHES - Lib Dem deputy leader

Not surprisingly, now Labour's in opposition and we are in government, voters normally do what they did last night which was to vote against the government to register their concerns. So yes, we didn't win the seat but we had a very strong campaign, better than any opinion poll predicted in terms of our share of the vote... We had the same share of the vote yesterday as Labour won with at the general election just a few months ago, so had the Labour vote not moved we would have brought it home. We didn't. Labour got the protest vote, they got the anti-government vote but we are in good heart.

MICHAEL FALLON - Conservative Party vice-chairman

It was not a great result for us but it is not a great surprise either. We have to take unpopular decisions. It is a by-election fought in the context of VAT going up, the tough spending review in the autumn and job cuts coming through in the public sector. It is a very, very difficult time for fight a by-election like this. We were third to start with, we are still third. We have ended up being squeezed. That is what happens in by-elections.

ANDY BURNHAM - shadow education secretary

It's a good win for Ed Miliband and Labour but we are not getting carried away. We have made a very strong and confident start but there is a long way to go. Mr Cameron will be very worried when he sees these figures. There is real concern about the direction of travel of this Tory-led government. This is a wake-up call for David Cameron and Nick Clegg.


It's been a difficult time for the Liberal Democrats, a difficult time for the coalition. And really I think Elwyn Watkins should have been the MP, should have been elected, the margin was so close that I'm afraid the smears that were used against him probably swung the election, this by election should never have had to have taken place, he should have been the member of parliament.

TIM MONTGOMERIE - Conservative blogger

Just before Christmas, at a meeting of the full cabinet, Conservative ministers openly talked about how to help the Liberal Democrats do well in Oldham. That discussion was leaked and that confirmed the suspicion of many of us that - despite what Sayeeda Warsi and others have said - the party did not fight this properly.

PROFESSOR JOHN CURTICE - Strathclyde University

I think Labour can take quiet pleasure out of the result. It is confirmation of the opinion polls that Labour is back in the political game. The party for whom this causes the most trouble is the Conservatives. It is the worst squeeze that they have suffered in this situation so, to that extent, they must be concerned. For the Lib Dems it is a breathing space. But they must clearly be aware that their vote has held up primarily due to that Conservative drop.