Well, Labour held on in Oldham East & Saddleworth winning the first by-election of the 2010 parliament, defeating candidates from both parties in the UK’s governing coalition.  It does mark a victory for Labour’s new leader, Ed Milliband, the first contest in his capacity as official Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, but the embattled Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has emerged from the scruffle relatively unscathed.  
The Liberal Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of, or to answer for, for that matter.  In an almost prohibitive political environment - they have been shunted down to single digits in opinion polls of late - the LibDem vote held up.  Their share of the vote ticked up a bit, in fact, a slight 0.3% increase from last May’s general election. 

As for the party of Prime Minister David Cameron, I like the way the local press - often unwisely overlooked in UK politics - put it.  Per the Saddleworth News: “The Conservative Kashif Ali was well beaten in third.”  
Instead of tarnishing Labour’s brand, the overturning of the general election by unaccountable judges may have redounded in their favor, just as the ousted MP Phil Woolas bragged would happen before the vote.
The Tories can’t take too much heat for this.  The then-incumbent Labour government saw their party’s share of the vote plummet in some by-elections before the last general election, when voters decided that the real race was between two other parties.  (They even lost their deposit in Cheadle.)
In my preview, I speculated that minor parties might register significant percentages in protest votes, as they often do in by-elections.  By and large, this didn’t transpire.
The xenophobic British National Party - which has attracted despairingly large vote totals here in the past - saw their vote shrink.  They “lost their deposit.” (The term is short hand for electoral embarrassment.  In UK elections, candidates who fail to muster five percent of the vote forfeit a £500 filing deposit.)  
Right wing Tory voters who abandoned the official Conservative candidate - a Muslim - seemed to have gravitated toward the Euroskeptic UK Independence Party, instead.  As Tory grandee and right wing loose canon Norman Tebbit blogged: “Oldham is not UKIP territory, but it can be pleased to have increased its vote and put the BNP into fifth place.”  UKIP’s heartland is in the rural south of England.  The BNP’s turf is here in the industrial north of England.  
For those of us in America who have grown weary and wary of mainstream liberal commentators’ - the static by no means relegated to the “progressive blogosphere” - brazen dissembling in tying the shocking shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) by a textbook’s “lone gunman” to agitation for small government, the rejection of the BNP as a protest vehicle by conservatives in the UK is heartening news.  
The by-election result denies antagonistic commentators a big BNP vote to tie the coalition and its bold program of actually shrinking the size of government to an irritated “climate of hate,” which the explicitly White Nationalist party incontrovertibly seeks to stir up.
Oldham voters on the Left rejected the Green candidate.  England’s labor union-influenced industrial north “is not Green territory,” either.  Most of the LibDems’ left-leaning base seems to have shifted over to Labour, or stayed at home.
In the end, Oldham East & Saddleworth voters seems to have shifted their votes around among the three “big parties.”  Or, the “result relied on borrowed votes” as Guardian commentor Julian Glover explained it.  A political reporter for the Observer newspaper “tweeted” a plausible scenario: “Labour are suggesting that Lib Dems have lost working class votes in Oldham and Saddleworth but gained middle class votes from Tories...”  This would confirm a pre-poll survey that suggested that the LibDems would see some “migration” of its general election voters to Labour, while many Tory voters would migrate over to the junior partner party, perhaps to avoid embarrassing the government or in hopes to beat Labour.  (It didn’t find any notable “migration” to UKIP or the BNP.)  The survey predicted that Labour would loose very few voters to the LibDems.
Neither coalition partner party can boast of their result in Oldham East & Saddleworth - and both may curse the dubious LibDem pre-coalition agreement protest that summoned the by-electon - but the governing parties did defy expectations and their votes combined did attain a majority of the those cast.  It’s enough to grant a reprieve from opponents’ carping over how this government’s austerity program is destined to fail, and gives them the green light to forge ahead.