I know that we are into a new and different sort of politics, what with two parties forming the government and all that, but the bigger of those two parties really is taking the mick in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. Both parties deserve to be punished as a result.

It takes a fair bit for me to feel sorry for a Tory, but it is hard not to feel some sympathy with the Tory candidate, Kashif Ali, who has effectively been thrown to the scavenging Lib Dem wolves.

From David Cameron down, the message is clear – we will say we are pulling out the stops for poor old Kashif, but we’re not really, and for heaven’s sake don’t do anything that looks remotely like an organised campaign. International development minister Andrew Mitchell seems to have gone further, saying they will do all they can to help the Lib Dems.

Back in the days before Nick Clegg decided that being deputy prime minister was more important than any principle, or any promise made in opposition, Lib Dems used to love a good by-election. They lived for them. They won a fair few of them too, not least by engaging in the kind of tactics that saw Labour MP Phil Woolas stripped of the seat.

So it is all a bit pathetic to see the PM so worried about the declining status of his deputy that he has to help out the Lib Dems in case the vote undemines Deputy Clegg any further.

But in doing so, they are effectively saying to the voters in this three-way marginal that they don’t count for much. A party that sets out to lose clearly does not deserve to win; but nor does the party their shabby approach is seeking to help.

And poor old Clegg cannot see that what the Tories are really up to is being in a position to say, however badly they do next Thursday, that they didn’t expect anything better because they were trying to help the Lib Dems. And if the Lib Dems do badly, well, it just adds to the ‘poor old Nick’ feeling which, a few years down the track, is exactly what Cameron wants to be surrounding his nominal Number 2.

So what with the Tory VAT rise coming in the build up to the vote, and a good Labour candidate in Debbie Abrahams, there is every chance the Tory tactic will backfire. It certainly deserves to.