As the Oldham by-election announcement was made this morning, if you listened close enough you could hear the anti-Corbyn brigade deleting their anti-Corbyn tweets saved up for what was apparently going to be a great night for Ukip. How wrong they were. The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn and in the face of a vile campaign by Ukip that smeared his opinions at every opportunity, increased its share of the vote by some margin.
Labelled ‘toxic’ in the seat, Jeremy was even used as the face of the Ukip campaign. The suggestion has also been made that Jeremy’s office signed off on hiding his presence for the campaign and that this supports the claim that it was nothing to do with him. Even if this is taken to be true, Ukip and the national press did it for them – be under no doubt, Jeremy was front and centre in this campaign whether Labour intended him to be or not. The media, and those opposed to Jeremy inside the Labour party, described this by-election as a referendum on Jeremy’s position. This morning, the voters of Oldham West and Royton delivered an unequivocal vindication of his leadership.
I knew from the day that we tragically lost Michael Meacher that Labour would retain this seat comfortably; indeed I wrote about this for the New Statesman last week. It was not “Corbynites’ li”e myself that egged-up this by-election and made it something that it wasn’t; it was those opposed to Jeremy that fuelled that message.
My position is clear. Jim McMahon was a fantastic candidate for this constituency and he will make a fantastic member of parliament. We had a brilliant ground campaign that was backed up by the amazing influx of new members that have joined our party because of Jeremy’s leadership. I am not saying that these factors did not play a role in this fantastic victory, they certainly did. But after briefing for weeks that Jeremy would lose this seat for Labour and that this was all about his leadership, do not turn around and tell me that he had nothing to do with it because we won.
But I do not intend to use this piece as reason to gloat. Labour still has many mountains to climb, but this by-election has demonstrated that we can easily climb them when we work together. For a brief moment, my twitter timeline paused and erupted in excitement – we had won, and more importantly we won together. From Progress members to Momentum supporters, from those crazy Corbynista MPs and those dangerous Blairites, we all got involved and united behind a common cause and we won.
I urge those that have been briefing against Jeremy to now get behind his positive message and the alternative he offers that has been supported by so many voters in Oldham West and Royton. Jim McMahon focused his campaign on delivering for the local people that he has represented for many years already on the issues of housing and ending child poverty. This is the same message that has been established by Jeremy Corbyn. So even if you will refuse to believe that Jeremy had anything to do with this victory, and I am sure many will, at least accept that Jim’s winning message isn’t that far off Jeremy’s.