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Oldham is a bad omen for Labour, even without the Corbyn effect

24 November 2015

5:08 PM

24 November 2015

5:08 PM

Assuming we haven’t been vaporised by Vlad, the Oldham West and Royton by-election takes place next week, and Labour are seriously worried. Ukip’s odds to take the seat have fallen to 11/4 and as this observation from a campaigner explains, much of this seems down to the Corbyn effect.

Labour have huge problems with their working class vote from what I have seen. These results were essentially reflected across the board by the 100 other campaigners over the last 2 weeks. Ukip is more popular than Farage though very few actively dislike him. But Corbyn has completely turned off his vote.

Ukip are still going to struggle because near 30% (south east Asian electorate) actively dislike Ukip And are certain to vote Labour if they come out to vote. UKIP will win comfortably in Royston South, chatteston and Crompton. The question really is, whether the south east Asian vote turns out. If they do and Ukip fail to turn 30-40% of the Tories, Ukip won’t gain more than 35% and will lose. It all depends on the turnout, but in my honest opinion, at 3/1 it represents a ridiculous value for money as I’d put them both at evens. UKIP can win here, they are getting a very warm welcome and Corbyn is destroying his core vote.

To those of us outside the Labour movement the almost Jonestown-like behaviour of the last few months appears baffling, especially when the government is going through one of its most difficult periods.

Corbyn comes from an eccentric English tradition of Quakers, Diggers and socialists; a perfectly noble tradition, but very much a minority one whose moral equivocation and naïve pacifism leaves most people cold. As Nick Cohen points out, the lie is that Corbyn is ‘authentic’ when in fact his true views would horrify most of the population.


But I wonder to what extent what is happening in Oldham is inevitable, and might have occurred had Labour elected a more mainstream leader. Much has been written about Ukip’s decline this year, but all the trends suggest that populist parties are a permanent feature of European politics now. Even Germany’s version of Ukip has now broken into double figures, and that’s a country where the taboos about xenophobia are strongest; it seems unlikely it will go away in Britain, even after Farage retires.

So while Ukip won only one seat in May, in terms of their goal of finishing second in 100 northern seats in order to build for 2020, they did pretty well. The strategy of targeting working-class Labour seats is the brainchild of Paul Nuttall, their deputy, and it seems to be working in Oldham.

In my miserablist screed about the country being doomed, now a bargain £999 on Amazon, I suggested that in an increasingly multicultural Britain Labour could come to resemble the American Democrats, an alliance of wealthy white liberals and minorities, and so lose white working-class votes just as the Democrats did to the Republicans.

Historically Labour was unique among European centre-left parties in crossing traditional sectarian lines, embracing both Protestants and Catholics; yet in recent years it has developed from an internationalist party to a multiculturalist one and become deeply involved in Pakistani biradari politics. They have won a solid majority of Muslim voters but if they can do this while holding onto their traditional supporters it will be a first in history. Nowhere else in multi-ethnic societies has voting not developed along ethnic lines; it would be quite an achievement if it didn’t happen in England.

Jez probably doesn’t help, but this is part of a wider social trend to do with multiculturalism; in fact if anyone is to blame then for once it is Tony Blair.


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