Boost for UK opposition as Labour wins by-election
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Last Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011, 20:41
London: In the first major by-election since the Tory-led coalition came to power in the UK last year, opposition Labour Party today retained Manchester's Oldham East seat in the House of Commons with an increased majority.

The poll was called after an election court kicked out Labour's Phil Woolas when he was found guilty of lying about his Lib Dem opponent during the general election campaign. But despite the scandal, Labour candidate Debbie Abrahams increased the party’s margin of victory from 103 votes last year to 3,558.

Abrahams got 42 per cent of the ballots when the results of the special election were announced today.

Kashif Ali of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party got 13 percent of the vote.

Elwyn Watkins of the Liberal Democrats, Cameron's coalition partner, came second with 32 per cent in Thursday's voting in the Oldham East and Saddleworth district in the Manchester area of northern England.

There was clear relief among Lib Dems that the result was not worse after weeks of intense pressure on the party, which has seen its national opinion poll ratings fall dramatically.

Leaving his London home this morning, Lib Dem leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted that it had been a "strong" showing by the party at what was a "challenging time" for the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

"I think the strong result in this by-election for the Liberal Democrats shows that whether we are in government or in opposition, we remain a strong, united independent party whose values continue to attract support," he said.

Labour received 14,718 votes to the Lib Dems 11,160 while Conservative candidate Ali got 4,481.

The victory was an important boost for Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been under fire for failing to make a stronger impact since taking over as Labour leader last September.

Shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper said voters had turned away from both coalition parties, reflecting public anger at the Government's policies.

"We are pleased with the result and it is a big change from the general election, a big increase in the majority," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The result also presents a challenge to Cameron, who will face questions of his own from sceptical backbenchers, who are irritated by the lengths the Prime Minister has gone to prop up his flagging Lib Dem partners.


First Published: Friday, January 14, 2011, 20:41

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