If ever there was a case of a party believing its’ own critics then it was Labour just twenty four hours ago however, to be fair members of the Parliamentary Labour Party rarely leave the capital so who can blame them for fearing the worst? However, in Oldham West it was a very different matter and despite all the media attention given over to the UKIP candidate yet again, Labour bounced back into office with an increased majority. The winning candidate, Jim Mahon, pr0bably deserves more credit than anyone else involved in his campaign and yet, I suspect that it was Team Labour that done it! Jim admits to not knowing where he stands politically, he’s just a straight-forward guy who wants the best for his constituents and the town of Oldham. I know the town personally, having visited relatives who live there many times as well as having worked there myself for a few years. It’s a good place full of decent people who would not have been impressed by the way our government has behaved since being elected in May. The threats to remove Tax Credits will have been especially worrying in an area where so many people are either in poorly paid work or, actively looking for work. The town, in common with so many others in the Greater Manchester area, has seen its’ traditional industries not simply decline but disappear altogether. In fact, if you want to see what once made the area the envy of the modern world then you need to visit the museums in Manchester which, I am pleased to say, offer free admission.
There was some post-election talk about the people of Oldham West voting against Labour because of Jeremy Corbyn but why would they do such a thing? Labour has held the seat for years, not because the previous MP was a really nice man which I’m sure he was but because the locals just like Jim McMahon know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. They may not be living in the most affluent or desirable part of Greater Manchester but they are proud of what they have and they wish to preserve it. If you go back to the time before the Labour Party was first established, workers in the Lancashire mill towns were increasingly politicised and prepared to fight for their rights. They also fought for the rights of others including African Americans held in slavery by their white masters, people who they knew very little about and would probably never encounter themselves. The city of Hull makes a lot of its’ association with William Wilberforce but the greatest condemnation of slavery came from the Lancashire towns such as Oldham. The Workers’ rights that those Victorian factory workers campaigned for are the equivalent of our current Human Rights and where you have an endemic sense of fair play you will undoubtedly find socialism. Of course, we know that socialism has become tainted by a succession of major twentieth Century events but it remains at the heart of every cohesive community in Britain. We talk about things being done for the common good which is fundamental to socialist thinking although, more often than not the phrase is used by people who want something different for themselves. However, let’s just celebrate the fact that after the most awful few days in politics that we have seen in recent times, the Labour Party has something to cheer about and let’s wish Jim every success in his new job.