Scottish Daily Mail
Corbyn effect costs Labour thousands of election votes
LABOUR was on course to lose thousands of votes in one of its safest seats last night in a backlash against Jeremy Corbyn.
The party was expected hang on to the traditional Labour heartland of Oldham West and Royton following a by-election but with its majority slashed by 15,000.
But it is a blow for Left-winger Mr Corbyn in his first test with voters since he became Labour leader. Ukip, which has been aiming to squeeze Labour in the North, was expected to finish second.
Election leaflets do not mention Mr Corbyn, but voters have raised fears about his links with the IRA and recent comments against a ‘shoot to kill’ policy for terrorists, which he has since clarified.
Even Labour MPs and campaigners canvassing in the constituency have conceded many traditional voters see him as a ‘problem’. Ukip candidate John Bickley also attacked him as a ‘security risk’.
Labour’s candidate Jim McMahon is seen as a moderate within the party and is on course to take the seat, which has been safely Labour for more than a century. The 35-year-old truck driver’s son left school at 16 and has been vocal about his family’s military service and his local connections. A shadow cabinet source said: ‘If we are only holding on to a seat like Oldham West because we’ve got a sensible candidate with a good local record, it’s certainly a worry. Next time, if there’s a seat with a smaller majority and a Corbynista candidate running, it could be Ukip’s for the taking.’
The by-election was triggered by the death of MP Michael Meacher, who had held the seat since 1970 and retained it with a thumping 14,738 majority in May.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage yesterday suggested the large number of non-English voters in the seat had stopped his candidate’s victory. He said thousands of Labour supporters who voted by post would swing it for Mr McMahon. Around 20 per cent of voters in the constituency are of south Asian origin, who are strong Labour supporters and analysts say are likely to vote by post.
The Ukip leader said: ‘The reason it is close and the reason that I can’t be confident about the postal votes is that in this constituency there is a particular block of votes which is a very difficult demographic for Ukip.’