Despite everything, Labour will win in Rotherham tomorrow

by Kevin Meagher

Labour will win the Rotherham by-election tomorrow.

To paraphrase George Orwell, that’s a revolutionary prediction in a time of angst for the party in what is usually thought to be a safe northern heartland.

A perfect storm of hostile circumstances surrounds this election, from the botched selection of the party’s candidate through to last weekend’s train wreck issue when a foster couple in the town, who happen to be members of UKIP, had three children removed from their care – with 20 minutes notice.

But these are trifles compared to the deeper issues affecting the town – and the election.

It is of course set against the revelation of a systematic problem of child-grooming by mainly Pakistani men in the town. Specifically, the indolence – and therefore complicity – of public authorities in Rotherham who knew of the problem and failed to act out of a misplaced sense of not wanting to inflame racial tension.

And, not to be forgotten, there’s the actual reason for the by-election in the first place: the resignation of Denis MacShane, in disgrace, after the Commons’ standards and privileges committee pilloried him over his expense claims.

Labour’s candidate, Sarah Champion, has her work cut out. Not aided by the circumstances of her selection (and, to be fair, no fault of hers) which saw half the membership storm out of the selection meeting, leaving just a couple of dozen members to actually vote. She also has to contend with the party’s tattered reputation in the town and if that’s not enough, there’s the small matter of getting out the vote on a bitterly cold winter’s day.

Little wonder, then, that the chatterers are talking down Labour’s chances. But they are wrong; Labour will, despite these not inconsiderable travails, hold Rotherham tomorrow.

There are two reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The first is that while Respect will undoubtedly hoover-up votes from within the town’s Muslim community there are not enough to win the election, barring a catastrophic fall in Labour support.

According to Rotherham’s joint strategic needs assessment, the main document for planning key public services, just 7.5 per cent of the town is made up of people from BME (‘Black Minority ethnic’) communities, with around 7,600 Pakistani Muslims. Given Respect’s appeal is narrowly-focused here, there should not be enough support to repeat the Bradford Spring.

Then there’s the threat from the right. At the 2010 election, the Tories came second with 16.7 per cent of the vote, while the BNP managed 10.1 per cent of the vote and UKIP got a further 5.9 per cent. That’s 33 per cent voting for right-wing and very right-wing parties. On the face of it, the party should be worried that there is a strong anti-Labour challenge from the right.

But there are eleven candidates standing in the election tomorrow and although Labour is not in great shape in the town the lack of a clear single alternative to spearhead a protest should be telling.

The most likely scenario therefore remains a Labour victory, albeit with a reduced majority. But then the hard work begins. Rotherham is an example of the kind of Labour heartland towns with ingrained political, social and economic problems which are becoming unpredictable places for the party these days.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

Tags: , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Despite everything, Labour will win in Rotherham tomorrow”

  1. Ray_North says:

    I agree – we’ve done an in-depth analysis of the seat, read our analysis including facts, figures, stats and graphs – everything that a proper political stato could wish for – follow the link:

  2. AnneJGP says:

    Kevin, this is an interesting article: thank you.

    Your final paragraph has me wondering, however. When you say that a Labour victory is the most likely scenario But then the hard work begins, your phrasing leaves it a very open question as to what the hard work you have in mind relates to.

    I’d like to think you mean hard work in relation to those ingrained political, social and economic problems. I fear you mean hard work in relation to those unpredictable places for the party these days.

  3. Chris says:

    Rotherham – Labour heartland town, or just a Rotten Borough?

    Does anyone here seriously believe that after all the shenanigans listed in the article, Labour have actually earned the right to hold onto this seat?

    A labour win, in these circumstances, is actually just as depressing as any of the other possible outcomes.

  4. AnneJGP says:


    I don’t really agree. For one thing, it will be the people’s choice. For another, sometimes events like these energise the remaining people to massive efforts to improve standards all round.

    Let’s hope that a Labour victory will see people in place with the determination and guts to tackle those ingrained problems referred to above.

  5. Rev Graeme Hancocks says:

    Good, thoughtful article. Despite everything, Sarah Champion is good person and deserves to win. “Respect” – a misnomer if there ever was – and UKIP will probably battle it out for second place. All depends on turnout.

  6. john B says:

    Well Labour did win without even a majority of the vote despite the less than 1 third turnout and despite the lock on the postal votes which made up 40 percent of the vote. The good news is that the Euro skeptic parties BNP and UKIP, without such advantages, got almost half the total of Labour.
    The 1 third turn out mean that nobody really gives a fig about a meaningless by election that can have no effect on Parliament, which shows at least some intelligence.

  7. Mike Homfray says:

    Percentage wise, Labour did better than at the last election, which considering everything that went on is nothing short of miraculous!

    The candidate and new MP appeared very strong and I think that the local party will support her in future

Leave a Reply