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Corbyn not so dead and buried after all

December 4, 2015

The Oldham by-election result had political correspondents and doomsayers in the Labour Party scrabbling to find a new script today. Most had already written their stories and started penning Jeremy Corbyn’s political obituary on the assumption that we would see a narrow Labour victory after holding off a strong UKIP surge.

Oh Dear: how wrong they were.

All day they have struggled to understand, let alone explain what happened. Many seized on Nigel Farage’s assertion that 11,000 dodgy postal votes spiked UKIP’s guns before it slowly dawned on them that whatever might be wrong with the way postal and proxy voting currently works it was embarrassing to be caught sharing UKIP’s pathetic fig leaf.

Jeremy_CorbynThis happens so often when political correspondents are forced to step outside the Westminster bubble, especially after the dramatic week we have just witnessed in Parliament. On Wednesday evening they were ready to write how Hilary Benn was about to topple Corbyn: they just needed the expected narrow win in Oldham to press the publish button. Had they looked beyond the narrow confines of London SW1 they might have steadied their hand and injected a little more balance into their interpretation of events.

Oldham confirms what has been happening over the last two months in local authority by-elections. Labour has been doing well in its heartlands, showing that the enthusiasm that swept Corbyn into the leadership at the end of the summer was not temporary and has not dwindled. They also show that Labour is not doing so well elsewhere: Corbyn appeals to the loyalists but has yet to build a narrative that reaches beyond that base.

Awkward for UKIP too

The results also show that support for UKIP is slipping as they, too, are struggling to build a new narrative following the painful General Election result for them. With only one MP they won’t get the attention at Westminster their substantial electoral support justifies until they find a way of countering the clever, but fragile, position David Cameron has adopted on the European Union renegotiation and referendum. The debate appears to have moved but UKIP hasn’t.

One Comment
  1. dailyoutsider2015 permalink

    He may do well in Labour heartlands but it is difficult to see how his narrative – past/present/future – will ever appeal to the centre ground?


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