This Greater Manchester seat of Oldham West and Royton is up for grabs on Thursday in the first by-election of this parliament, and under normal circumstances, Labour would be expected to easily retain it. It has after all been a very safe Labour stronghold for a long-long time – veteran Michael Meacher held it for some forty-five years until his death from a short illness just over a week ago.
However, these are not normal times, are they? Specifically, extreme lefty Jeremy Corbyn has seized the Labour Leadership crown with a thumping majority. This ought to have augured well for Labour’s chances in this poorish constituency, because Meacher was also a renowned left winger, a Corbyn supporter, and was anti Labour’s any right-wing policies. He was much respected on all sides, an ex-minister, bright, Oxford educated, and an ex- university lecturer to boot. Corbyn couldn’t be different – no experience in government whatsoever nor leadership, not very clever, poorly educated, and worked mostly as a trade union official. None of that would matter really, except that he has caused chaos and division, even recently shaken traditional core Labour voters when he voices some bizarre views and values – unpatriotic attitude, favouring unlimited immigration, hand-over of Falkland’s to Argentina, terrorist appeasement, axe the armed forces, and a policy of no shoot-to-kill in terror attacks.
UKIP rather than campaigning on local issues, are on the attack by critically highlighting Corbyn’s opinions (and he himself is noticeable by his laying low absence on the ground (been there only once?). Labour supporters might stay at home for this by-election, rather than turning out to vote, eh?
The Conservatives are unlikely to do well and will be lucky to get much over ten percent of the vote. The LibDems will get nowhere, as usual these days. Labour is still undoubted favourite to win – the 64 thousand dollar question though is how well, isn’t it. If they don’t get more than forty percent, it will show that Corbyn and the Party are in dire straits (in the previous five elections they had 55%, 45%, 49%, 51%, 59% – an average of 52%). The dark horse is of course UKIP, who came out of the blue the last time round with 21%, and if they recover their lost momentum might even double that this time, perhaps?
[If this by-election ends in a close race between Labour and UKIP, Corbyn’s future looks bleak whoever wins, don’t you think?]