Peter Lindsay analyses the Oldham result (sorry for the late posting of this, Peter);
Oldham West was a success for UKIP
This headline may seem surprising to some. The mainstream media have been saying it was a setback for UKIP (would they have said otherwise?), having “set up” a wholly unrealistic aim of us actually winning the seat, or getting near to winning. Many of us in UKIP rather sillily fell for that trick.
The fact is that Oldham West has been the best by-election result UKIP has ever had in territory of that sort.
You can only judge success, or rather progress, by reference to past performance, I think most people will agree. So we find that in the May General election, we got 20% at Oldham West (2nd place); by comparison, in the 2010 General Election we scored only 3% there. Can we be seriously expected to maintain this dizzy rate of progress? Of course not. And yet somehow the hare of our having a chance of winning the seat – which would have meant doubling our already impressive 20% in just 7 months – was set running. How was this?
The Corbyn factor
A belief has got around since the summer, not without some justification, that far fewer people will vote Labour with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm. This is incorrect and the Oldham result proves it. It overlooks the reasons most people vote Labour. The two main pillars of Labour support these days comes not from the Marxist ideologues who joined for £3 and voted for Corbyn as Leader last summer, but from the following voter categories:
- Ethnic minorities, 80% of whom still vote Labour, albeit less than previously.
- Those dependant on the State for benefits or employment;
- People in category 1, particularly Moslems, will not be put off from voting Labour, on the whole, by Corbyn’s image, such as his attitude to singing the national anthem, the royal family, the Falklands, the free enterprise system, the IRA etc. etc. Frankly, and sadly, these sentiments have little resonance with them. On the contrary, as Andrew Gilligan wrote in the Telegraph last Summer, “Corbyn is the Labour Leader British Muslims have been waiting for” so for them Corbyn is a further spur to vote Labour, not a deterrent.
- People in category 2 will always vote Labour, for personal financial reasons, because they know Labour has always used and will always use the tax system when in power to redistribute resources in their direction. They may not like Corbyn otherwise, but that is a very secondary consideration.
No, Labour will not suffer a collapse in support but a drop of maybe 5% or so because of Corbyn, to around 25%-30%. At that level they have absolutely no chance of winning a General election. Corbyn’s “gestapo” – Momentum – will move to topple Corbyn, possibly with his own assent, as soon as the dirty work of purging the kulak Blairite MPs has been done, after which they hope to substitute a more voter-friendly leader. Corbyn will be gone by 2018, in my view.
Territorial type is crucial in understanding a result
Returning to UKIP’s performance, one has always to bear in mind that there is about 25% of Britain – inner-city areas and Scotland – which is not good UKIP territory and Oldham is part of this area. I have never been to Oldham, but I gather it is roughly equivalent to an inner area of London like Dagenham and Barking.
We have perhaps become drunk on our own success in by-elections since 2011. Just 4 short years ago, Jane Collins made our first big by-election breakthrough at Barnsley, coming second, with just 12% of the vote! THAT was viewed a huge success at the time and yet some are now saying our 23% in the much more difficult territory of Oldham is “disappointing”!
We have indeed WON two by-elections last year, but these were both in territory relatively favourable to UKIP – Rochester and Clacton, like our near-wins at Heywood in 2014 and Eastleigh in 2013. But we tend to forget that we also fought by-elections in Leicester and Feltham (inner London) in 2012, places not dissimilar in cultural character to Oldham West, and did far less well – around 5%. We also sank without trace in Scottish by-elections, another electoral black hole for UKIP.
It is possible that as many as 40% of the total votes cast at Oldham were Moslem votes. They were highly motivated to come out and vote for their hero Jeremy Corbyn. We also believe there may have been voter fraud, as is sadly often the case in Moslem areas but that needs to be investigated of course. But assuming for a moment that the Moslem share WAS 40%, then UKIP’s 23% represents around 35% of the native British vote in Oldham. That % would be enough to win in more favourable territory.
Another piece of good news from the Oldham result was the failure of the Lib Dems to advance on their 3% last May. The Lib Dems prior to 2010 used to be the Establishment’s in-house “protest” party of choice and were the knee-jerk choice in by-elections for disgruntled voters. There is little sign of any revival in their shattered fortunes.