A number of Labourites are very worried about the impact that Jeremy Corbyn’s shoot-to-kill comments will have on the party’s chances in the Oldham West and Royton by-election. They think it is the latest in a line of incidents that will suggest to voters in that seat that the Labour leader isn’t really thinking about things that they worry about, and is more focused on the things that London types worry about.
I understand that those involved in the campaign are worried the party is already in trouble, anyway. They believe that Corbyn is going down very badly with the large numbers of white working class voters in the seat, and that even though the South Asian population are largely turning to Labour, this will not create enough of a lead for the party to be able to sustain big white working class losses to Ukip. The Tory vote in the seat is also turning to Nigel Farage’s party, which has led sources to conclude that if Ukip does campaign hard and well, it could win.
Now, given figures in the party are acknowledging this early, when the by-election is on 3 December, Labour still has a chance of redoubling its efforts and forcing the central party to take note of the problems that poorly-thought-through comments from the leader could cause. Better than realising at the very last minute that things are getting messy, as happened in the Heywood and Middleton by-election, where Ukip came very close indeed. But Ukip could have had an even better chance of winning in Heywood and Middleton had the party’s top brass acknowledged what those on the ground were saying about the potential that this seat had, and diverted resources from Clacton. This time around, Ukip is already raring to go, and certainly is campaigning hard.