Once again, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proven his critics wrong. And once again, the London media has underestimated Corbyn’s ability to get his way.
You can draw two lessons from this.
- First, that the gulf between the London media and Corbyn is so wide that the media have no clue what is really going on inside the Labour Party and with its voters nationally.
- Second, that Corbyn’s Momentum group has solidified its grip inside the party, despite the Syria fiasco, and moderate MPs ought to look at the Oldham result with fear — this is a party that can get votes both because of and in spite of Corbyn and Momentum, and MPs ought to go against the Corbynite majority inside Labour at their peril.
The London bubble narrative preceding the Oldham West and Royton by-election was that Corbyn’s failed bid to stop military action against Islamic State, coupled with his failure to prevent his own MPs voting with the Conservatives, made him look both extreme and weak.
Labour was due to lose votes in Oldham, the media said.
The Telegraph, for instance, predicted that Labour’s majority would be “dramatically slashed.” The paper selectively quoted shadow chancellor John McDonnell to make him appear as if he “seemed to be preparing for a majority of less than 1,000.”
Here is the ridiculous chart The Telegraph used to speculate what the House of Commons would look like if Labour lost its Oldham majority to UKIP, and that was replicated nationally (UKIP is in purple):
In the end, the Oldham result looked like this, according to the Manchester Evening News:
To be fair to The Telegraph, it does have one columnist who admitted he doesn’t really understand what is going on with Labour right now. James Kirkup wrote:
Time for a confession: I don’t know many Corbyn people. Like a lot of political hacks, my professional experience of the Labour Party started in the early Blair years, when frankly, there was little point in talking to people like Mr Corybn. My contacts book is shaped accordingly, and, I suppose, my understanding of Labour politics. I suspect a lot of journalists (and not a few politicians) are in a similar position. Then there’s the bubble problem: Westminster people know other people at Westminster. We don’t know party members (“the grassroots”) because we don’t meet them very often. We can all do better here.
He concluded that “Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is a car in the process of crashing” … right into an increased percentage majority in Oldham, apparently! UKIP can only dream of such car crashes. (In fairness, Business Insider also bought the false rumours that Labour was in real trouble in Oldham.)
More importantly, the Oldham result has consequences for Corbyn’s grip on his own party. While Corbyn himself may not be openly saying he’d like to see a lot of his moderate MPs deselected before they stand for the 2020 general election, his supporters are likely in favour of that. The way Momentum sees it, they elected Corbyn with a majority of party member votes; they just won a by-election; MPs ought to get on board the train or leave. This, after all, is how democracy works — the majority gets its way. The minority has to suck it up.
Momentum shipped about 400 activists on buses and coaches into Oldham to campaign for victorious Labour MP Jim McMahon, who is a moderate. About 16,000 Momentum activists worked for Corbyn’s leadership campaign. When it comes to selecting candidates to run for future Labour constituencies, Corbyn can quietly look his colleagues in the eye and say, do you want this support or not?
So, screw with Momentum at your own risk, Labour MPs!
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