Perhaps one of the greatest problems with socialism is that an opinion always requires an explanation. There are many people I speak to whom often see a certain socialist perspective as rational after a few minutes of conversation. But on the doorstep, those minutes often add up rather quickly. The advantage that groups such as Ukip have is that they are able to offer a reactionary opinion in a matter of seconds. It is important to remember that that is exactly what Ukip is: a reactionary party, of reactionary politics and reactionary politicians.
The politicisation of terrorism crises such as the Paris attacks serves to warp the minds of the general public. When Nigel Farage jumps to accuse all Muslims of “split loyalties” in reaction to the Paris massacre he does so to incite fear. People are very, very scared. At the moment, my usual commute on the Tube is marked by the same jerks of the train every so often, but it is now accompanied by an occasional gasp and many worried faces. Amid this worry the political ground becomes fertile for reactionary groups such as Ukip. This is what is worrying about the upcoming by-election in Oldham West and Royton.
But Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has a weapon that the Labour party has not held for a very long time. It is one that was emphasised by Ed Miliband in his recent endorsement for the new leader: an army of devoted, passionate members. Many of these members are young and energetic, and to be fair to the older generation, many of them are newly energised too. Those conversations that take a few more minutes to conduct can now be performed with an even greater number of conversations occurring. The conversations that occurred at the last election were not serious ones: the new politics has to be about engaging with constituents and voters, rather than simply asking how they vote.
This is the major factor that demonstrates why Labour can beat the reactionary politics of Ukip in Oldham. The right-wing papers can claim that we are sinking in the polls in the area but I seriously doubt it. Ukip will not be capturing an area that has revitalised itself since the race riots of 2001. Local people want nothing to do with Farage’s divisive politics. As the Ukip candidate, John Bickley, wraps himself in the Union Jack because he is proud of his trigger-happy views on Syria he forgets the fact that his party stands against working people reliant on tax credits. Working people in the constituency must be under no illusions: Ukip does not stand for them.
Locals that I have spoken to in the area support this view; Bickley is not in touch with local opinion and is out of line with his politicisation of the Paris tragedy. Labour candidate, Jim McMahon said it best when he claimed that it wasn’t “for some bloke from Cheshire to rock up in Oldham” and start shouting the odds on local projects. Local people hold huge admiration for the late Michael Meacher who was a huge supporter of Jeremy. The number signing up to Momentum’s campaign day this Saturday has allayed the worry by many “moderates” that the new cohort was full of paper members. Forget what the doom-mongers are saying; on the ground, Labour activists are powering on, taking a positive message to the real voters on the ground.