He needs a good result to calm his party’s nerves
The very first by election of the 2015 parliament has now been triggered by the sad death of Michael Meacher who, it might be recalled, sought to mount a leadership challenge in the post-Blair leadership election.
On the face of it this should be an easy hold for Labour although UKIP will have noted that they did pretty well there on May 7th coming in a creditable second place on 20%
What is striking are the change figures between 2010 and 2015. Notice from the chart above how Meacher increased Labour’s share by more than 9%. This was in an election when nationally the party just went up a point.
This suggests that Michael Meacher probably had a personal vote which it might be hard for a new candidate to attract whenever they by-election is held.
The location in Oldham is not too far away from Heywood and Middleton where UKIP came very close in the October 2014 by-election. This is the first opportunity for Farage’s party since the general election and we can expect them to throw a lot at it.
Of course this will also be the first by-election since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader. A poor performance will reinforce the notion that Corbyn is a vote loser and an electoral liability. A good one will send out the opposite message.
Will some of the thousands of new LAB members personally take part in a high octane intensive ground campaign to retain the seat? Will they show that being an activist is more than sending out Tweets?
This is also first by-election for the new Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who is from Preston and is almost a local. His party did dismally in the seat on May 7th and it needs to ensure that it gets a much better vote share simply to show that some momentum is coming back.
Farron, whose main appeal to members was his personal record of election successes, should lead this one personally.