Who won at Oldham? Jim or Jeremy?

In Thursday’s by-elcction at Oldham West and Royton, Labour not only confounded most expectations by winning comfortably, but it actually increased its share of the vote compared to the General Election from 54.8% to 62.1%. So whose victory was this? The popular and moderate leader of Oldham council Jim McMahon or the Labour Leader substantially elected in the first round Jeremy Corbyn?

It’s probably too soon to say.

It’s been a pretty good week for Corbyn. Roughly two thirds of the Parliamentary Party and 17 out of 28 voting members of the Shadow Cabinet supported him in his opposition to British air strikes in Syria.  And Corbyn supporters will see the result in Oldham as confirmation that Labour can win elections – including the General Election – under his leadership.

But Oldham West and Royton was special. There was an immensely popular Labour candidate with high name recognition; the party was able to mobilise considerable resources that would not be available in a wider election; and almost a quarter of the votes cast were postal votes garnered largely from the loyal British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi communities.

In 2001, Labour won a by-election in the adjoining constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth but, in the General Election of 2015, nationally it went down in flames. So it’s probably too soon to draw firm lessons from this week’s by-election.

Meanwhile Corbyn’s job ratings have fallen sharply since he won the Labour leadership in September. Compared to a net approval rating then of -8, it now stands at -41. The fight goes on …


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