I've been a tad uncertain about the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election since Phil Woolas was deselected (or whatever) last year. The reason for this is my experience of the Winchester by-election in 1997. At the General Election of that year, Lib Dem newcomer, Mark Oaten beat the incumbent Conservative, Gerry Malone by just two votes. Malone successfully challenged the result, and a by-election was called. Oaten's majority went up from 2 to 21,556. He won an astonishing 65% of the vote. I'd spent a day campaigning in Winchester, in the pouring rain. Met Robin Page for a chat on the street, he also being a candidate. Its the only time I've ever been there. I met no-one who did not think the Conservatives were anything but 'poor losers'. Never been much of a fan of re-running elections since.
I haven't been able to campaign in Oldham and Saddleworth, but I'm told that we have a very good candidate, and that we are hopeful of performing well on Thursday. However, Conservativehome have published results of two opinion polls tonight which are not encouraging. Both predict a comfortable victory for the Labour candidate, with the Lib Dems in a poor second, and us in third place. If anyone asks me to comment on these polls tomorrow, I'll have to resort to the line about the only poll that matters being the one on polling day - which as it happens is true. In the meantime, its best of luck to Kashif Ali.