Friday, December 4, 2015

Corbyn's success in Oldham confounds the media narrative

All the early indications are that Labour are set for a much easier victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election than anyone thought possible.  This might be a useful moment to flag up an obvious but under-appreciated fact from the recent GB-wide YouGov voting intention poll - namely that Labour under Corbyn have exactly the same share of the vote (30%) that they actually achieved under Ed Miliband at the general election.  There's no particular reason to think that YouGov are still overestimating the party's support, because quite radical methodological changes have been made to address the previous errors.  So in spite of Corbyn's truly horrific personal ratings, Labour have stood completely still.  How can that be?

The answer is that they haven't stood still.  They've lost significant support to the Conservatives and other parties, but have completely offset it with support gained from elsewhere.  The best clue as to how they've managed to achieve that comes in two of the poll's supplementary questions.  Among people who actually voted Labour in May, Corbyn has a negative rating of -6, but among people who are currently planning to vote Labour, he has a positive rating of +31.  Labour voters from May were only opposed to bombing Syria by a margin of 42% to 35%, but current Labour voters were opposed by a whopping 57% to 23%.  In essence, Corbyn has replaced the previous Labour coalition of support with a different coalition more in his image, and the new one is just as big.  That's not quite the narrative we've been fed, although admittedly if Labour support is draining to the Tories (to some extent) and is being replaced mainly by support from the Greens, Lib Dems, UKIP and previous non-voters, that does still result in an increased Tory lead, which is a huge problem under first-past-the-post.  Even so, Oldham may be the first concrete electoral indication that the state of play is much more nuanced and interesting than we've been led to believe.

I have a helpful suggestion for anyone in the mainstream media who may be struggling with a headline for tomorrow -

"Hilary Benn's wonder speech saves Labour's bacon in Oldham"

Go on, I dare you to be that brazen!

UPDATE : It appears John "the Gardener" McTernan has already attempted that line.  He's literally beyond satire now.

UPDATE II : Here is the full result...

Oldham West and Royton parliamentary by-election result (3rd December) :

Labour 62.1% (+7.3)
UKIP 23.4% (+2.8)
Conservatives 9.4% (-9.6)
Liberal Democrats 3.7% (n/c)
Greens 0.9% (-1.0)
Official Monster Raving Loonies 0.5% (n/a)

Obviously a 1% drop in the Green vote can't fully explain a 7.3% increase in the Labour vote, but nevertheless it's consistent with the notion that Corbyn is putting together a slightly different coalition of support.  What's even more interesting is where the lost Tory votes have gone.  I can't think of any reason to suppose the Tory abstention rate would be significantly higher than that of other parties, and it seems unlikely that many Tory voters would be interested in lending a tactical vote to a Corbyn-led party to keep UKIP out.  So the most plausible explanation is that the unfaithful Tory voters went to UKIP, but they were mostly offset by working-class UKIP voters from the general election returning to the Labour fold.

The Oldham campaign hasn't been as dramatic as Darlington in 1983, but at this very early stage the outcome does appear to have a Darlington-esque feel about it, because it's radically changing perceptions about Corbyn's "life expectancy" as leader.  It's now significantly more likely that he'll still be around at the time of the Scottish Parliament election in May, and I stand by what I said a few days ago - that's a good thing for the SNP, because it means that the chaos within Labour will carry on unabated.  Tony Blair gave the game away during the leadership election - ultimately, the problem he and his supporters have with Corbyn is not electoral, but ideological.  Even if Labour continues to hold its own in elections, the Blairites and others on the right still won't be able to live with Corbyn as leader, so we can look forward to the sniping and poison continuing.

I suppose the only downside of tonight's result is that we've been robbed of the chance of finding out what would have happened if the Blairites had been emboldened to make an early move to depose Corbyn, but failed.  Would they have talked themselves into a position where they couldn't remain in a party with a radical left leader?  Most of the MPs who defected to the SDP in 1981 couldn't have envisaged such an eventuality just a few months earlier.  A split of that sort really would have been a dream outcome for the SNP, but I'm sure we can make do with the Labour shambles we've actually got.

There had been some suggestions that a UKIP breakthrough in Oldham might have indirectly been a good thing for the independence movement, because it would have increased the chances of Brexit.  I'm not so sure about that.  We've seen in recent years that the fortunes of "Leave" in the opinion polls have had an inverse correlation with the fortunes of UKIP, probably because moderate Eurosceptics are appalled by Farage and co.  It may well be a good thing for the Out campaign if the Oldham result increases the sense that UKIP are becoming an irrelevance, thus allowing Eurosceptic Tory and Labour MPs to take the lead in future.  It's also arguably a good thing for them that Jeremy Corbyn's position has been stabilsed, because although he'll probably be campaigning to remain in the EU, he won't be doing it with quite the full-blooded enthusiasm that a more centrist successor might have done.

36 comments:

  1. Wooohoooooo!!!!


    JC 4EVA!!!!


    Hilary NEVER!!!!!!


    :P:P:P:P:P:P

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    Replies
    1. John McTernan must be very distraught today. Voters in Oldham did not follow his instruction.

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  2. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 1:37 AM

    Excellent result for Labour and a middle of the road candidate who has credentials in local government. Corbyn will need to look to such a man who has working class credentials. Unlike the con men and women bandwagon Scottish Nats who pretend they represent the working class while the Scottish rich are raking it in and food banks
    increasing. Well done the people of Oldham. Wake up Scots and get rid of the Nat si middle class pretenders.

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  3. Obvious sub-Comical Ali impersonator is obvious.

    Eat your cereal and revel in the sweet taste of Corbyn's victory :) :) :) :)

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  4. James, can you briefly explain the sdp 1981 part in your usual efficient manner for an American who has missed the real point.

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    1. Simply that the Labour right in 1980 for the most part were determined to stay within the party, much as the Labour right are now. Whenever the possibility of a new party was mentioned, the likes of Shirley Williams ripped the idea apart, much as the Blairites do now. They ended up surprising themselves, and I'm just wondering if history might repeat itself.

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    2. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 3:55 AM

      Wrong James. You are a bit on the young side. The moderate left were being threatened. The nutters that can never be elected on their own credentials are back. But will be defeated.

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    3. "The moderate left were being threatened."

      A typically irrelevant retort - regardless of whether the moderate left were being threatened, it wasn't the moderate left that defected to the SDP.

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    4. James, I'm sorry for swearing last week. But you ask us to ignore our troll, and then you engage him. Please lead by example and ignore him.

      And may I suggest that readers who encounter anyone from the south today point out to them how the newspapers and the media have consistently fed them lies for weeks about this election. Labour were supposed to just scrape it.

      They have polled over 60% of the vote!

      And please Scots, don't imagine this heralds a Labour Party you can elect in Scotland. They have been less than full in their support here - as they mind their careers first and foremost. As usual. The best thing for Scotland is SNP/SNP - until we are independent.

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    5. What I really meant was that if people find GWC so unbearable, they should scroll past his comments. I wasn't making any definite commitment to ignore him myself, although in practice that's what I do most of the time.

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    6. I take that point and I generally do but all we want is to put a stop to his offensive Nazi slurs. A mature discourse is all we ask for. Nothing less.

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  5. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 3:42 AM

    I always thought the Scot Nat sis were idiots but was surprised that so many Labour idiots voted against fighting Islamic fascists. But so many Mps are pandering for votes and a cushy lifestyle that they seem to have let the facts evade them.

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    1. Jim McMahon also said he would have voted against air strikes.

      Looks like a resounding endorsement of his position from the voters of Oldham.

      Hilary Benn might be having a sleepless night tonight :)

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    2. Why? He could cross the floor at a push - the tories would be happy to have him and find him a safe seat in which to run.

      Aldo

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    3. He could never lead the Tories though, for all of a few hours yesterday he was next leader of the opposition

      :P :P :P

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  6. This was a by election in a solidly labour area. And there may well have been irregularities in the postal voting that need checked out. Hardly a stunning victory.

    If a GE were held now, it would be Thatcher vs Foot #2.

    Aldo

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    Replies
    1. Do you have any evidence of irregularities, or is this just tinfoil hat stuff?

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    2. It has been reported that 99.9% of returns from certain districts were for the Labour Party. If true, evidence of mass unauthorised proxy voting.

      Postal votes should be limited to the sick, disabled and elderly.

      Aldo

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    3. Not like that is going to be hard to check.

      All postal voters register as such, and if there are '99.9%' returns for Labour in certain districts then it will be very very easy to find out if there was any fraud.

      Although given 99.9% is numerically impossible unless there were at least 1000 postal votes in a single district, I think you're making that number up for effect.

      Alternatively we could reluctantly drag ourselves along on our knuckles into the 21st century and stop putting bits of paper in little metal boxes, then getting volunteers to count them by hand.

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  7. Akin to the Darlington by-election in 1983 where the Labour candidate Ossie O'Brien enjoyed a big personal vote rather than the party as a whole. Not a seat that would be receptive to UKIP.

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  8. What was the turnout?

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  9. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 12:15 PM

    James, you said it was not the moderate left that defected. Wrong again. Are you Saying Shirley Williams and Owen etc were not moderate people! Get a grip James the looney tune hard left were trying to unseat anyone that disagreed with them.

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    Replies
    1. Eat your cereal.

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    2. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 1:00 PM

      The Labour man was a well respected hard working councillor and deservedly won on merit. Nothing to do with Corbyn.

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    3. LOLOLOL does anyone else detect a note of panic in GWC's voice?

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    4. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 2:09 PM

      Only you can know why you made a stupid comment.

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    5. I think Shirley Williams was/is moderate. I do not think she was on Labour's "moderate left". In fact, I know she wasn't, as do you.

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    6. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 5:01 PM

      I disagree James. However Labour were in turmoil having been infiltrated by the Trots.. 1969-1979 were exciting times. There were all the leftie factions slagging each other off. And how the Trots hated the CPB. When the Life of Brian was made I just pissed myself. The CPB had a policy of never go into a battle you know you will lose. The Trots did not care if people lost their jobs they would just blame capitalism. The trade unions were just a vehicle for them.

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    7. Eat your cereal.

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  10. There are, really, in the end, only two positions that one can actually take in life:

    A) Sensible
    B) Not Sensible

    So let all the moderate Labour people go over to the tories. Then we can have the reasonable people in one party and the bonkers brigade in the other. Come election time, it wont be a difficult choice to make.

    Aldo

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    Replies
    1. Hilary Benn used the word "socialist" rather a lot in The Greatest Speech In History. He would of course have to explain that away before joining the "sensible party".

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    2. Aye well there are two parties the Brit Nat nutters could join, the Tories or UKIP. The choice might confuse them.

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    3. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 4, 2015 at 6:24 PM

      The wee cretinous timorous beastie Salmond has really crawled intae the gutter by mentioning Tony Benn.
      What a disgusting thing he has said. Tony Benn once said that the lack of diplomacy was the cause of war. There is no diplomacy to be had with fascists.Tony Benn detested fascism. Salmond should eat his words and resign.

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    4. Eat your cereal.

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