British coalition heading for by-election loss: polls

9th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's opposition Labour Party is set for victory in Thursday's by-election, opinion polls suggested, in the first electoral test for the governing coalition.

Two polls out Sunday put the Liberal Democrats of Deputy PM Nick Clegg -- which had been expected to mount the strongest challenge -- in a distant second place.

Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives would come third, they suggested.

Labour beat the Lib Dems to the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat outside Manchester in northwest England by just 103 votes in the May 2010 general election.

But victor Phil Woolas, a former immigration minister, was found to have campaigned on untrue statements about his Liberal rival and lost a legal challenge, triggering the by-election.

Victory for Labour could be seen as a negative public verdict on the Lib Dems' role in the Conservative-led coalition and would come despite claims that Cameron held back the Tory campaign to help the Liberals out.

A poll of Oldham voters, conducted for former Conservative chairman Lord Michael Ashcroft and published in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, put Labour on 46 percent, the Lib Dems on 29 percent and the Tories on 15 percent.

The findings were mirrored by an ICM poll for The Mail on Sunday newspaper which gave Labour a 44 percent to 27 percent lead, with the Conservatives on 18 percent.

Labour leader Ed Miliband told voters in Oldham on Saturday that the by-election gave voters their first chance to pass judgement on the coalition's package of cuts, designed to rein in Britain's record deficit run up under Labour.

Despite the victory predictions, the polls held little other good news for the new opposition chief, with nearly two thirds thinking the cuts were "necessary and unavoidable".

Meanwhile ICM found that only 29 percent thought Miliband was doing a good job -- the lowest of the three main party leaders.

The government was also more trusted to run the economy (37 percent to 22 percent) than Labour.

Ashcroft's polling saw 1,503 adults interviewed by telephone on Wednesday and Thursday, while ICM Research phoned 504 adults on the same dates.

© 2011 AFP

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