The news that the NUS are going to put up a candidate in Oldham East and Saddleworth if there is a by-election has been met with ambivalence. The former Labour MP, Phil Woolas, will be forced to stand down if his appeal against a ruling that found him guilty of lying in election material is upheld. That is another story in itself, of course.
Nonetheless, there is likely to be a by-election soon, and some fear that the NUS’s choice to put up an anti-cuts candidate there will actually help the Lib Dems take the seat, by taking votes from potential anti-fees Labour candidates, such as Councillor Paul Cotterill (who writes for the left-wing blog Though Cowards Flinch) who may stand.
But with Lib Dem support nationally at around only around 10%, it seems unlikely that the Lib Dems have a chance in the constituency. Students are less likely than any other group at the moment to vote for Lib Dem. Encouragingly, a poll today showed that Labour are now ahead of the Conservatives for the first time since the election.
Whether the NUS’s decision is a publicity stunt or not, they are nonetheless unlikely to win much support other than from students. Still, a high vote for them will indicate to the government the strong level of antipathy that exists across all demographics towards the coalition.