Jeremy Corbyn, the most reviled ‘terrorist sympathiser’ in recent times, won a significant victory in Oldham last night against a backdrop of wall-to-wall media smears. The beleaguered leader defied his critics in spectacular fashion as Labour won a thumping victory in his first ballot box test. Local council leader Jim McMahon won with a 10,722 majority in the Oldham West and Royton by-election.
The byelection had been billed as ‘Judgement Day’ by the gleeful unreconstructed Blairite media-pack, desperate to overturn the elected leader of a party. The New Statesman had a podcast titled ‘Will Labour lose in Oldham?’ The Politico could barely contain it’s glee, reporting: “Farage has a glint in his eye, like a betting man watching the odds shorten. All day his “Kippers” have been bringing him good news: UKIP is closing in on Labour. UKIP is certain: This is the Corbyn effect.”
In a world where their leader has a virtual permanent place on the BBCs flagship tv show, and Corbyn is smeared and derided in every broadcast and from every media pore, in a world where fear and racism should play in to UKIP’s racists hands, they failed.
But so too did the commentariat, who had been salivating for weeks at the prospect of a Labour failure.
Poor failed John McTernan wrote: “Can it get worse? It surely can. Labour has many worst weeks ever in its near future. Perhaps even weekly. But the really big cloud on the horizon is the Oldham West by-election. Labour’s white working-class vote has haemorrhaged already.” The media guru concluded: “Oldham West is, by any measure, one of the safest Labour seats in the country. Do not be surprised by an earthquake there.”
The Spectator has often led the charge. Two days ago Sebastian Paye wrote (‘Is Ukip on course to win the Oldham West and Royton by-election?’): “Corbyn’s leadership appears to dragging the party towards electoral oblivion, while Ukip is chipping away at the formerly solid Labour working-class vote in the North of England. Paye quotes the local UKIP candidate: “For me, it started to come into focus two weeks ago — what was happening with the Corbyn effect and the toxicity on the doorstep’. He says voters have told him Corbyn is ‘an idiot’ and he believes the consensus in Oldham is that ‘these people are not credible’.
Dan Hodges – whose gushing praise for Hillary Benn yesterday knew no bounds – wrote: “So this is what it looks like when a political party dies.” And: “If Corbynites are the be believed, Labour should win Oldham with increased majority. Given all those excited new members.”
They did. Maybe grassroots politics sometimes beats media propaganda. It did in Scotland last year.
The whole message has been clear: Jeremy Corbyn makes Labour unelectable. Now we know that’s just wishful thinking.