Labour’s easy win in Oldham despite UKIP hype

Farage

A crushing defeat for UKIP in the Oldham West & Royton parliamentary by-election today raised serious questions about the credibility of Nigel Farage’s party in northern working-class areas.

There had been great media hype in recent days about a possible shock win for UKIP – or at least a desperately close result.

In fact – and no surprise to us at H&D – Labour held the seat fairly easily, though on a reduced turnout of 40.3% (down from 59.6% at the general election in May).

The full result was as follows:

Lab           17,322  (62.3%; +7.5)
UKIP          6,487  (23.3%; +2.7)
Con             2,596   (9.3%; -9.7)
LibDem      1,024   (3.7%; nc)
Green             249    (0.9%; -1.0)
Loony             141     (0.5%; +0.5)

On slightly different boundaries in 2001, the BNP polled 6,552 votes here – 65 more than UKIP managed in this by-election. (If anything the boundary changes should have made things better for UKIP by bringing in Hollinwood, once a strong BNP ward.)

So despite the collapse in the Tory vote, the absence of other nationalist contenders, the disgracefully poor conduct of Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the terrorist atrocity in Paris having taken place at the start of the by-election campaign – despite all this, UKIP’s performance was appreciably worse than at the previous north-west by-election in Heywood & Middleton.

Instead of a close contest, there was actually a swing to Labour!

Perhaps the crisis of morale and bitter personal divisions at UKIP’s national headquarters infected the campaign; perhaps the party paid the price for not being able to find a credible local candidate. That credibility was not enhanced by UKIP’s typical whingeing after the result about alleged postal vote fraud.

One problem in Oldham is of course the disproportionately high turnout of Asian voters, who now vote again as a block for Labour having abandoned their flirtation with the Lib Dems a few years ago. In 2001 and 2002 there was serious electoral fraud within the Asian community during campaigns against the BNP.  Despite Farageiste whingeing, we understand there is no evidence of such large scale fraud today.

More seriously there is a systemic problem for UKIP of failing to maximise their potential vote in white working class areas, especially in the north of England.  Quite frankly many UKIP “activists” are out of their comfort zone when they have to leave the golf course or the Rotary Club and venture onto council estates.

It doesn’t help that UKIP have a blanket ban on ex-BNP members, many of whom have considerable experience of campaigning in places like Oldham.

The party has a fundamental identity problem.  Even in this week’s vote over Syria, this was manifested in the sole UKIP MP Douglas Carswell (perhaps the most pro-Israel MP in Parliament) voting in favour of bombing, while his party leader Nigel Farage said he was against.

On the ground in Oldham the party failed to shed its image of neo-Thatcherism, and some voters who once backed the BNP here might have seen through the hype and recognised that despite its talk about immigration, UKIP’s liberal market ideology is “colour blind” and likely to lead to further entrenchment of the multicultural chaos that has caused such turmoil in Oldham.

We always knew that UKIP – whatever benefits it brought in driving an electoral wedge into the Labour and Tory parties – would have a limited shelf life. This by-election result in Oldham suggests that nationalists should be preparing already for an imminent post-UKIP era.

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