Voters go to polls in by-election

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Voters are headed to the polls in Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election

Voters are headed to the polls in Oldham East and Saddleworth in the first by-election test of the new parliament.

Polls in the marginal have suggested Labour is on course to win comfortably in what would be a major electoral setback for the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

However, anecdotal evidence points to a closer race and much may come down to turnout after polling stations open.

The by-election was called after an election court declared last year’s contest void after finding that Labour victor Phil Woolas had made false statements about the Lib Dem candidate Elwyn Watkins.

There were expectations of a local backlash against Labour because of the circumstances of the by-election, but the Lib Dems have also slumped dramatically in the polls since last May.

Despite finishing just 103 votes behind Labour in last May’s general election, polls last weekend found Mr Watkins trailing by a massive 17 points.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been repeatedly forced to deny that the Tories have run a half-hearted campaign in the by-election in a bid to bolster their Lib Dem coalition partners.

Mr Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, and other Lib Dem ministers have paid numerous visits to the constituency to try to shore up their vote. The Deputy Prime Minister insisted this week that the result would be “pretty close”.

The full list of candidates in alphabetical order are: Debbie Abrahams (Labour); Derek Adams (British National Party); Kashif Ali (Conservative); Peter Allen (Green Party); David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis Party); The Flying Brick (Monster Raving Loony Party); Loz Kaye (Pirate Party of the United Kingdom); Stephen Morris (English Democrats); Paul Nuttall (UK Independence Party); Elwyn Watkins (Liberal Democrats).

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