Moving the writ for the Oldham East by-election this afternoon, the Liberal Democrats have selected a date when “hundreds” of students will be away from the constituency. Students at Huddersfield University’s campus in the town will return for teaching on 17th January, several days after voters will go to the polls on 13th January.

Candidate Elwyn Watkins is thought to be under threat from the student vote, having reneged on a personal pledge on tuition fees. Claiming previously on his website that “it is morally wrong that someone should start out their working life with a huge personal debt”, Watkins told the Oldham Chronicle last week that he “would go with the coalition” and vote for a huge hike in tuition fees.

A university source told Scrapbook:

Though a minority will return for assessments on the 10th, most students won’t be here until the following Monday. There are potentially hundreds of students who won’t be here to vote in person or won’t have registered in time. In any case, those resident in Oldham only during term time will certainly not be there for the campaign.

Having pandered to the student vote for years, the Liberal Democrats are now terrified of them.

UPDATE: We now have an official statement from the president of Huddersfield Students’ Union, Matt Christie:

It seems that by fast-tracking the by election in Oldham East & Saddleworth, the Liberal Democrats are denying the students we represent at our University campus there a chance at having their voices heard.

We are working hard to register students at all of the campuses we represent to vote and this by election falls at a convenient time to take students out of the equation.

Just like the debate on tuition fees, this by election will be steamrollered through and not take into account the complexities of the issues.

Many students have lost faith in the Liberal Democrats as many of their MPs abandoned pledges they made when they thought they might be in with a fighting chance at election. Now, it seems, some of them are totally abandoning students to gain further power.

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  16. Conversely, most students from the constituency who study at universities outside the constituency won’t have gone back yet.

    e.g. Me. I grew up in Saddleworth, but went to York Uni. So if a by-election was held on this date 5 years ago, I would have been able to vote before returning to York.

  17. @Duncan: You missed one – as a former polytechnic, a greater proportion of their intake will actually live in Oldham permanently. But there’s no doubt what the net effect of this will be. Student organising needs to take place on campus and it can’t if they aren’t there!

    Even you can’t Fisk your way out of this one, Duncan.

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