“If I was to win here, the internal war in Labour would literally spill onto the streets.” – John Bickley
In 6 days time the people of Oldham West and Royton will go to the polls in a by-election caused by the passing of the Labour MP Michael Meacher.
In a seat where Labour won by a huge majority of nearly 15,000 votes, and gained over half of the total votes, it seems silly to even discuss any party other than Labour winning the seat. But a lot has changed since the General Election, and UKIP seem somewhat confident that they can cause an upset.
Make no mistake, this may just be a by-election, but the stakes are high for both Labour and UKIP.
Firstly UKIP stands to lose out on £100,000 if they do not secure another MP by March 2016, due to the little talked about “Policy Development Grant”. With funding to the party vital in light of a huge drop in donations, and this being the only real shot at them getting an MP by that date, its no wonder they are throwing everything at the seat.
Labour on the other hand has worries of a different kind. Should UKIP come close to eroding such a huge majority, or even have the audacity to win then Corbyns leadership will be called into question and many expect it would fuel a massive case for a vote of no confidence among disgruntled Labour MPs.
So can UKIP win? Well, if there was ever a set of circumstances that gave them a chance, they have all happened recently.
Firstly, UKIP has confirmed its ability to eat into the Labour vote, all illusions of UKIP being a threat to just the Tories long since replaced with the reality that in the North the opposition to Labour is UKIP. They caused the Tories to win many key seats in the GE due to their new bite of the Labour vote.
Secondly, we have the election of Corbyn as Labour leader.
Corbyn does not sit well with a lot of older, traditional Labour voters. Indeed his “toxic” image is such that he has only made one appearance in the seat.
In addition some of his latest antics will compound the issue. His comments on not “shooting-to-kill” for terrorists, not singing the national anthem and the media portraying him as anti-British plays right into UKIPs hands. It gives them the much needed opportunity to peel away thousands of disgruntled Labour voters that buy into the medias, the Tories and UKIPs portrayal of Corbyns Labour as no longer the party for them.
So they can win, but to over turn such a majority it is going to need an incredible bite into both the Labour and Conservative vote in order for it to happen. Its a big, big ask.
These are the figures from the general election to give you a picture of what is needed.
Not only will the UKIP Candidate John Bickley need to gain a huge swing from Labour voters, he is also going to need to convince Tory voters to either tactically vote for UKIP to ensure Labour lose the seat, or to convert to UKIP entirely.
The former seems a more likely bet, and it will be essential for UKIP in order to win. Never has the adage that UKIP pedal “Vote Tory, get Labour” been so prevalent. With no scare stories such as a Labour/SNP coalition to scare voters in sticking Tory, it might just go UKIPs way in this regard.
So in summary, its a tall order and would be one of the biggest upsets in by-election history if UKIP were to win. But then, UKIP have never really been too worried about upsetting anyone. And I do so hope they upset Labour in 6 days time.