This party is now unelectable. Er, hang on a minute ...
There was, though, one problem here: all too many of those providing the punditry had convinced themselves that Labour under Corbyn was unelectable, that UKIP candidate John Bickley, who had already lost two previous contests in the Greater Manchester area was credible, and that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage was a universally popular chap who would help the Kippers deliver a shock result, or at the very worst, a close one.
So, given Jim McMahon retained the seat for Labour with a five-figure majority, who scored the most spectacular foot-in-mouth? Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam gave it his best shot: “UKIP sources are optimistic but cautious about #OldhamWest. They reckon there's fewer than 1000 votes in it”, followed by the mardy “49 people postal vote for Labour from one house in Oldham”, which he made up. It’s the Breitbart way.
The Sun’s alleged “Westminster Correspondent”, Master Harry Cole, claimed “In the former centre of the UK’s cotton spinning industry, Labour are hanging on by a thread”, the accompanying article asserting “Jeremy Corbyn’s election as party leader will see the late Michael Meacher’s 13,000 majority all but wiped out”. So what would the Labour majority be, O wise pundit? “1-3000 say cooler heads”. So he didn’t have a clue, either.
Nor did the loathsome Toby Young, who demonstrated his investment expertise earlier: “Just placed a bet on UKIP to win in Oldham West. 11/4. Wish I’d got on earlier!” And the possibly low turnout? “Conventional wisdom is it hurts Labour. Would you challenge that?” Result - £25 sprayed up the wall. He’s not called Captain Bellend for nothing.
Labour increasing its share of the vote to over 60% defied the clueless pundits, but left Whinging Dan Hodges unmoved: “I'm not sure Corbynites quite understand the difference between ‘vote share’ and ‘majority’”, he moaned. But the most magnificent mardy strop came from Farage, who earlier had promised “In constituencies like Oldham West & Royton, it is UKIP challenging a complacent Labour Party”.
Yes, UKIP would “wipe out Labour in the North, just as the SNP did in Scotland”. There was no wipeout. “As a veteran of over thirty by-elections I have never seen such a perverse result. Serious questions need to be asked … Evidence from an impeccable source that today's postal voting was bent”. There’s one to retract later, then.