There is virtually no crumb of comfort to be salvaged for the non-Left side of politics from the results of Britain’s Oldham by-election last Thursday.
Labour has increased its share of the vote from 54.8% to 62.1%. This can only be seen as an endorsement of extremist hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn after 12 weeks in office. In overall terms Labour’s majority at Oldham was reduced from 15,000 to 11,000 but this was due to the smaller turn-out.
Corbyn has been in an embattled position in Parliament, with 66 members of his own party voting against him to support the bombing of Syria, and even some of his front bench openly ridiculing his pacifist position.
The day before the election, it was thought that some moderate, such as front-bencher Hilary Benn, whose eloquent speech in favor of bombing ISIS in both Syria and Iraq drew rare applause from both sides of the house, might replace the eccentric and extremist Corbyn, but the Oldham result must tend to hose that possibility down. It has strengthened Corbyn’s hand and given him a weapon with which to silence his moderate critics on the Labour benches.
The anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which retained its position in second place with a slightly increased share of the vote (from 20.6% to 23.4%), has claimed dirty tricks by Labour, such as corralling the postal votes of illiterate immigrants. This is quite possible, and the fact is that Labour had had all the hallmarks of imploding, but unless illegal practices on a massive scale can be proved, it will not affect the result.
The result is a bitter disappointment for UKIP, which had looked on popular horror at Corbyn’s extremism and links with terrorists to give it a greatly increased vote or even the seat. Before the election, it seemed these hopes were reasonable.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said:
“Evidence from an impeccable source [is] that today’s postal voting was bent.… There are some really quite big ethnic changes now in the way people are voting.
“They can’t speak English, they have never heard of Ukip or the Conservative Party, they haven’t even heard of Jeremy Corbyn.… I’m commenting on the state of modern Britain, post mass immigration.
“It means effectively that in some of these seats where people don’t speak English and they sign up to postal votes, the electoral process is now dead.”
One answer to this might be that if UKIP or the Tories had been equally ruthless, they might have done the signing-up first, but such a prescription is hardly good for democracy.
The Tories, in what had been Winston Churchill’s first Parliamentary seat, went from a miserable 19% to a derisory 9%. It is only possible to assume many former Tory voters did not see UKIP as a kind of ideological half-way house, but went all the way to Labour.
Local council results were broadly similar to the election for Westminster.
Eternal optimists on the right-of-center might see a crumb of comfort in that the crazy Greens, who want scrap all Britain’s defenses and replace them with foreign “town twinning,” halved their vote from 1.9% to 0.9%, not much above that grand old British institution, the Monster Raving Looney Party (0.51%). However, there is actually no comfort for the right-of-center in this: Corbyn’s policies are almost as kooky as the Greens’, and Green voters had everything to gain and nothing to lose by switching to Labour.
The liberal Democrats, whose antics have by and large tended to resemble the ruder bits of a Carry On film, went nowhere, sticking on 3.7%.
While the Greens want to scrap all defense, Corbyn wants to scrap the nuclear deterrent and has said that if he attains government he will never use it, making it somewhat pointless anyway.
He is, of course, opposed to the government’s limited air-strikes against ISIS in support of local anti-ISIS forces, and despite ISIS’s proudly publicized record of abominable atrocity.
Why this frankly weird result?
That Corbyn could harvest votes on such an immoral platform, and despite the eloquent opposition of 66 members of his own Parliamentary party, including a number of the most senior ones, is downright alarming, and gives rise to questions of how deep a culture of nihilism and violent anti-Western extremism has penetrated British society.
As for the Tories, in many ways they deserved a better result: Cameron’s cabinet, apart from its incomprehensible commitment to wasteful and useless foreign aid projects, and a disgraceful defense run-down previously, has shown a good grasp of political economy and given Britain good economic growth.
However, it has shown no real will to come to grips with the most toxic aspects of political correctness. It blithely ignores outrageous PC injustices and prosecutions that a determined Minister could stop with a telephone call, as well as the far-left bias of the BBC and universities that it funds.
Its handling of the great “metapolitical” issues, including an often poisonous public culture, has varied between amateurish and non-existent, and let the left have the upper hand. Oldham may be a final wake-up call.