It’s the first parliamentary election since Britain’s governing coalition announced its plans for huge tuition fee increases and higher education budget cuts. It’s being held in a district with a university campus. And it’s scheduled for Christmas break.
The UK’s Liberal Democrats are the junior partners in the new British government, but they’re taking most of the student heat over the fee increases — they ran on a platform of eliminating tuition fees entirely, and won a high level of student support. (Many Lib Dem candidates, including the party’s leader, signed pledges not to vote to raise fees under any circumstances.)
So this local election in the district of Oldham East and Saddleworth, prompted by a vacancy in the seat, represents a big test for the party. In May, the Labour party candidate won by a 103 vote margin out of a total of 44,520 cast. The University of Huddersfield has a satellite campus in Oldham that enrolls 1200 students, so that constituency could easily swing the election.
Which is why the election is being held on January 13, before those students come back from break.
Fun Fact: The Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield is Captain Picard. Really.