Now begins the tussle over why Labour's victory was so emphatic. It was Jez wot won it. Or was it Jim McMahon? Did Labour trounce all-comers because the campaign concentrated on local issues? Did an electorate used to returning a long-serving left wing MP prove unfazed by the red-baiting, Trot-bashing nonsense of UKIP and their media helpers? Or was the context in which the by-election took place coax out the fantastic result? The complex and messy truth is that all these things mattered. The question is whether it's a blip peculiar to a nominally safe, northern seat; or whether there's some generalisations that could apply to future by-elections elsewhere.
Let's start with Jim. I don't know the fella, but I've heard stuff about him for a long time. He was admired/loathed in local government circles for implementing a compulsory training system for Oldham councillors which he linked to allowances. When you look at the calibre of incompetents and fools we have here in Stoke for instance, you can see why such a thing is admired and feared. Jim was also one of the first Labour councils to be designated a co-operative council. This initiative was an attempt to embed the principles of the cooperative movement into the running and delivering of public services. Unfortunately, because of the ruinous cuts visited upon local government by the Tories, it has been preoccupied with finding alternative delivery models for those services and, unsurprisingly, has proved something of a mixed bag across the country. Still, Jim enjoys some name recognition in his patch, hails from the same working class stock as the majority of the constituency's residents, and knows about the problems and the lives of the people he now represents in Westminster. Lesson to be drawn by the party? Local candidates with local roots have greater pull than parachutists.
Yet it can't all be put on Jim. He was an asset to be sure, but there were other movements in Labour's favour. The first of these is to the detriment of UKIP. As the catch-all protest party, UKIP profited from a - for them - benign media environment. Having cornered the anti-EU market, they opportunistically fished from the anti-equal marriage cesspool, and quickly usurped immigration as their own. As the latter is the obsession of choice of all the right wing press and, as such, a permanent staple in the broadcast media UKIP thrived. Well, things have changed. The Labour leadership campaign hogged the media during the summer while Europe saw its worse refugee crisis since the war. UKIP should have made hay, but politics and the media were indisposed. The result was a shrinking profile and therefore a declining purchase among the electorate. This in mind, despite various folk talking up UKIP's chances of taking the seat their dependence on friendly coverage meant they came nowhere. They remain the protest vote of choice, but without the assistance of friends in the newsrooms they're doomed to flounder and complain about postal voting.
About that media. It's fair to say last month was certainly the worst press Labour has had since at least the early 1980s. I can't honestly remember the party getting a rougher ride. The shoot-to-kill comments - blown out of proportion and context. The allowing of the Tories to portray us as the party of insecurity, and of course Hilary Benn making a better case for war than the Prime Minister against his own leader. Just absolutely bloody awful. As we know, divided parties don't win elections yet, well, it's almost as if the good people of Oldham thumbed their nose at so-called educated opinion - mine included. As Jeremy was plastered all over UKIP's material and the press having a good go of making him responsible for Dave's war, to the point of reducing military action to the internal shenanigans of the PLP, you cannot say Jeremy was not a factor in the election. Had the result been close, you can bet his opponents would have had a field day. But no, none of the bile, division, and appalling headlines cut through. Why?
I don't think it's got much to do with planting a left flag and finding that the electorate comes flocking. Rather, I think the media obsession with Jeremy has become so saturated, the attacks more ludicrous and - yes - desperate-sounding that voters are tuning out. Far from being brainwashed dupes, they are seeing through the bullshit and making up their own minds. For Labour loyal people, which if they're white are too often dismissed as racists and xenophobes by our 'in-touch' media and politicians, the stuff written about and talked about is so much Westminster froth. Some are not paying attention, and others might have got it into their heads that Jeremy is "old Labour" and therefore a palatable successor to His Blairness. In addition, Labour might be scooping up a few anti-politics votes too. When the whole political establishment is ganging up against an insurgent politician, there are plenty of voters bloody-minded enough to put a plus where they place a minus.
Making generalisations on the basis of one contest is foolish, but there are pointers for us to look for at the next by-election, wherever that is. We might be onto something if a) UKIP continue to be relatively weak. b) Hostile coverage of Corbyn has no discernible impact on the vote. c) The votes for protest parties appear to transfer to Labour in significant numbers. Carrying on in this vein might suggest the position of the party vis a vis the electorate isn't as bad as a lot of people think. Time will tell.