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GENERAL ELECTION 2024: Labour holds seat but with smaller majority due to Gaza and Reform

Despite a volatile battle for votes in Oldham West, Chadderton and Royton, Labour has managed to hold its seat in Oldham West, Chadderton and Royton. 

Jim McMahon was re-elected to represent the constituency for his fourth term with a majority of around 5,000 votes. 

The incumbent MP received 13,232 votes, around a third of the total number. But the result is a far cry from his last election in 2019, when McMahon swept up more than half of Oldham’s ballots. 

McMahon was nonetheless cheerful about the win and said: “It’s been a really tough campaign. After 14 years of frankly ‘managed decline’ I was determined that with a Labour government in parliament, Oldham had a seat around the table. And that’s exactly what we’ve achieved today.” 

The incumbent held the office of Shadow Minister for Devolution and Local Government and could be taking a role in the new cabinet. 

He said: “If you want to change the country, you can’t do it from Whitehall. You’ve got to devolve down – that’s about trusting our metro mayors, councillors but also our local communities.

“I’m invested in this place, I love it, I care for it. I’m also hugely frustrated that we’re not realising our full potential. And in that desperation, people are exploiting the division. I want to rebuild that sense of hope and optimism, whatever role I’m playing at national level.”  

On paper, the constituency has been a Labour strong-hold for almost three decades. 

But the recent local elections saw the party lose overall control of the council after voters in wards including Coldhurst, Werneth and Royton South chose to back independent councillors. 

Gaza was tipped as a ‘decisive’ factor in the Labour loss in May, with concerns the pattern could be repeated at a general election. 

Zaffar Iqbal, who was endorsed by George Galloway’s Workers Party and ran a campaign centred on Gaza, came in second place with 8,256 votes. The family lawyer had a large backing from the constituency’s Muslim community but also gained support in areas like Royton for local issues. 

Iqbal said: “Gaza was a central issue in this election. When I was out knocking on doors it was clear people felt a lot of pain because of the major parties’ stance. 

“I’m disappointed that I’ve lost. But we’ve taken quite a sizeable chunk of the Labour vote which sends a message from our community: Don’t take our votes for granted.” 

In a place that has been accused of ‘toxic politics’ and ‘bad agents’ running personal campaigns, Iqbal said he was proud to have run a “clean” campaign. 

“I think people respected me for that,” he said. “There should be integrity in politics.” 

McMahon noted there had also been a number of personalised attacks and ‘underhand tactics’ from candidates during the campaign.

He said: “There are parts of Oldham’s politics where certain people believe that the normal rules and laws don’t apply to them. 

“But I believe the ballot box is the best antidote to that. [Today] will be a rejection of the divisive politics that we have seen take place in Oldham for far too long, where people have used race and religion and any wedge issue to create differences.” 

Reform candidate David Silbiger, who was not present at the count, came in third place, falling just short of 7,000 votes.  The surge in support for the right-wing populist party came as Nigel Farage won his seat in Clacton but did not gain as many seats as predicted by the exit polls. 

It’s likely the Conservatives, who usually come in second in Oldham East and Saddleworth, lost out on votes to Reform UK in this election. The Conservative candidate received just over 4,000, putting the party in fourth place for the constituency. 

Independent candidate Raja Miah (2470) came in fifth, followed by the Greens (1,857), Lib Dems (1,271) and Independent Tony Wilson (573).

Turnout overall for the seat was 51 percent down from 2019 by around ten pc.

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