UK Politics

Oldham by-election: Final push for votes

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Media captionCandidates for the Oldham West and Royton constituency have entered their final day of campaigning

The final day of campaigning is under way in the Oldham West and Royton by-election - the first electoral test of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership.

It has been one of the safest Labour seats in the country, with a majority at May's general election of 14,738.

But UKIP are mounting a vigorous campaign to snatch the seat from Mr Corbyn's party.

The by-election was triggered by the death of veteran left-winger Michael Meacher, who had been MP since 1970.

Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell reportedly branded UKIP an "evil force within society" that divides people on racial lines at a campaign event in Oldham on Saturday, with Labour candidate Jim McMahon.

According to the Spectator magazine, he told Labour activists: "We cannot allow them to get any from of toehold within our political system and that's why it's about defeating them but more importantly, defeating them - a clear contrast in terms of a sincere, local committed socialist candidate."

Mr McDonnell conceded in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live that the contest was "narrow" but victory by a margin of as little as 1,000 would "still be a win".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jim McMahon is battling to retain the seat for Labour
Image copyright PA
Image caption Nigel Farage and UKIP candidate John Bickley have high hopes

UKIP leader Nigel Farage hit back by accusing Mr McDonnell of peddling "divisive" politics and claimed Labour supporters in Oldham were turning their back on the party and voting UKIP.

Speaking at Oldham College with UKIP candidate John Bickley, he said Mr Corbyn's views on the monarchy and security could cost the Labour Party 50% of its votes.

"There is this basic feeling that he's (Corbyn) not patriotic," said the UKIP leader.

The BBC's Deputy Political Editor James Landale, reporting from the campaign trail last week, said Labour supporters campaigning on the doorstep were nervous about the outcome.

"They are picking up that many of the party's traditional supporters are planning to stay at home or even switch to UKIP. Many of these are from the white working classes in this less than well off constituency.

"They seem unimpressed by Labour's divisions and some don't like the cut of Jeremy Corbyn's jib. They don't seem to understand him and his brand of what they see as a form of metropolitan leftism. One voter told me: "I am a socialist, but he's ruddy communist."

But bookmakers are still predicting that Labour will hang on to the seat.

Full list of declared candidates:

Conservative: James Daly

Green Party: Simeon Hart

Labour: Jim McMahon

Liberal Democrat: Jane Brophy

Monster Raving Loony: Sir Oink A-Lot

UKIP: John Bickley

General Election 2015 result

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