In the first by-election since the General Election in May, the Labour Party increased its majority in the constituency by 7.4%, with 17,322 votes cast in Labour’s favour, a majority of 10,835.
The death, on the 21st of October, of former MP Michael Meacher, who had been MP of the area since 1970, triggered a by-election testing the Labour party for the first time under new leader Jeremy Corbyn. In the May general election, the turnout was 59.6% of the electorate, with today’s turnout in Oldham at 40%, and Labour increased its share of the vote from 54.8% to 62.2% of the turnout. Before this by-election, UKIP earmarked Oldham as a potential target for doubling its presence in the Commons, with the area having a history for euro-scepticism and views traditionally linked with the party. Coupled with this was the relative success that far-right party the BNP had achieved in previous elections, with former leader Nick Griffin standing here in 2001, where he gained 16% of the vote. It is worth noting that this constituency was once held by Winston Churchill in 1899-1906, and he attained the seat via a by-election in 1899.
Labour supporters will see this as a major boost to confidence and mandate, as it would seem to reaffirm the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, despite recent spats within the party over Syrian air strikes and other issues. The air has been murky surrounding this by-election, with allegations of dirty tactics surrounding UKIP, including the circulation of a newsletter entitled “Labour News”, listing fake policies including the “abolition of the monarchy, uncontrolled mass immigration, axing of our armed forces and the handing over of the Falklands to Argentina”. This and personal abuse aimed at Mr Corbyn have soured the atmosphere of the by-election.
New Labour MP Jim McMahon has been leader of the local council since 2011, and has now established himself as the new man in Oldham, at only 35 and the son of a truck driver. Despite what could be termed a ‘large minority’ of constituents tending to vote for right-wing parties, it was very much doubtful that any party other than Labour could even have a chance here. He said “I’m overwhelmed of the support I have received in the town that I love, I know that Michael is watching and would be pleased with our result” – a tribute to the former MP.
This by-election also saw the Monster Raving Loony party put forward Sir Oink-A-Lot, in reference to allegations made by Lord Ashcroft against David Cameron earlier this year.
UKIP have alleged that the postal voting was not conducted in the correct manor, and there may be problems in the coming days over electoral fraud, here is Nigel Farage’s tweet: