BRITAIN’S LEAST POPULAR MP has been one of the loudest voices of doom about Labour’s election prospects under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Arch-Blairite Tristram Hunt was returned to Westminster with just 19% of the vote from his electorate in Stoke On Trent Central. This traditional Potteries heartland was the only seat in England where the majority of the electorate did not vote. UKIP came second with an 18% increase in their vote in a constituency where Labour has shed 14,000 votes since 1997.
It is something of an irony that the former Oxbridge don and arch-Blairite did not look to his own backyard when blaming ‘political elites’ and Ed Miliband’s ‘lurch to the left’ for Labour’s collapse in the North and the Midlands. ‘The electoral challenge we faced was from UKIP - selling an anti-metropolitan message about political elites uninterested in those “left behind”. These were historically Labour areas who just simply felt that Labour was no longer for them’ was his lofty verdict on the UKIP surge in working class areas.
One year on from the General Election, with a Labour leader committed to core socialist values, that trend appears to have reversed – most spectacularly in UKIP’s target Northern territory. There, Liverpudlian Paul Nuttall, UKIP deputy leader, seems unlikely to succeed in his stated aim to ‘crack the dam’ in the North and make significant gains.
A few weeks back, the Bloomfield ward by-election in Blackpool saw a Labour overall vote share of 57.6% – up by an impressive 12.8% –and largely at UKIP’s expense (they were down 10% and pushed into third place). In Higher Blackley, Manchester, it was a similar tale with Labour’s vote share up 10.5% to 65.3% and UKIP losing 14% of their vote from last time. Elsewhere in the North West, places like Bolton and Chorley have seen similar recoveries, and across the country UKIP’s average vote in council by-elections since the General Election is down by 8.06%.
If recent results are anything to go by, Labour in the North West has travelled a long way on the road to recovery from the UKIP threat – which is good news for Jeremy Corbyn and bad news for those like Hunt, poised to launch a leadership coup should Jeremy do badly on 5 May.
is Chair of Calder Valley CLP (writing in a personal capacity)