Labour byelection win caps tough week for Jeremy Corbyn
Comfortable win in Oldham West and Royton as UKIP complains of ‘bent’ vote
UK Labour Party candidate Jim McMahon gestures as he stands with his partner Charlene Duerden after winning the Oldham West and Royton byelection. Phil Noble/Reuters
Jim McMahon held the seat for Labour with a majority of more than 10,000 and an increased share of the vote, which will provide some relief to Mr Corbyn after a torrid week for his leadership following bitter in-fighting over air strikes in Syria.
The Labour leader hailed the result as a “vote of confidence in our party” while Ukip claimed the volume of postal votes cast in the constituency had “distorted” the outcome.
Turnout was higher than expected at just over 40 per cent, and Labour’s success appears to have been partly secured by an effective postal vote operation.
Ukip complained of a “bent” contest after failing to make the breakthrough Nigel Farage hoped for.
Mr Farage said: “As a veteran of over 30 by-elections I have never seen such a perverse result. Serious questions need to be asked.”
The Ukip leader claimed to have “evidence from an impeccable source that today’s postal voting was bent”.
Mr McMahon polled 17,209 votes, with Ukip’s John Bickley trailing in second on 6,487, representing a majority of 10,722.
Labour’s share of the vote increased by more than seven points to 62.1 per cent and there was a 2.27 per cent swing from Ukip to Labour.
Last October Mr Bickley nearly overturned an 11,000 Labour majority at the Heywood and Middleton by-election, losing by just 600 votes.
He said Oldham West and Royton was a “different type of constituency with different demographics” in a “very strong Labour heartland”.
He claimed the postal voting system was “not fit for democracy right now”, while Ukip’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall said postal votes had “distorted the result” amid claims Labour had focused on the Asian community with an alleged surge in postal ballots yesterday.
Mr Nuttall said: “We should go back to the old system where you had to give a good reason why you can’t get off your backside and go down to a polling booth. That would make it fair again. That would make polling day actually mean something.”
Mr McMahon, the leader of Oldham Council, dismissed Mr Farage’s accusations of a “bent” contest, saying: “There is nothing wrong with people making a democratic decision not to support Ukip.”