Is Ukip a threat in Oldham West?

Labour roll of stickers

Michael Meacher, who died on 21 October 2015, had represented the Oldham West and Royton constituency since its creation in the boundary changes of 1997 when the former Oldham Central and Royton seat was abolished. Before that Meacher had represented Oldham West since 1970. Oldham West has been Labour since its creation in 1950 with the exception of 1968-70 following a Conservative gain in a by-election.

General election results on current boundaries 2005

GENERAL ELECTION 2005 notional % 2010 % 2015 2015 %
Conservative 21.1 23.7 8,187 19.0
Labour 48.4 45.5 23,630 54.8
Lib Dem 21.2 19.1 1,589 3.7
Ukip 2.6 3.2 8,892 20.6
Green 839 1.9
BNP 6.8 7.1
Others 1.5
Majority 27.1 21.8 14,738 34.2
Turnout 54.0 59.1 59.6








Local election results since 2010

LOCAL ELECTION % 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015
Conservative 26.6 19.6 15.3 14.5 15.8
Labour 48.0 62.0 65.7 56.3 52.9
Lib Dem 23.8 17.2 13.2 3.7 5.6
Ukip 23.6 22.7
Green 0.9 3.0






Composition of the constituency

As the name suggests, Oldham West and Royton is based on the western side of the Greater Manchester borough of Oldham, north-east of Manchester city centre just outside the M60 ring.

It is divided into three geographical sub-units:

  • Oldham West. Four borough wards cover an area of the town of Oldham. Coldhurst is the west side of the town centre, Werneth an inner city neighbourhood immediately to its south, and the two wards of Medlock Vale and Hollinwood are suburbs to the south of the town centre.
  • Chadderton. An old mill town to the west of Oldham but part of the borough and directly adjacent to Oldham town – extending out towards the town of Middleton in the neighbouring borough of Rochdale. Three wards make up the Chadderton area.
  • Royton. A smaller town within the borough of Oldham, formerly a centre of cotton spinning but now more residential. It has two borough wards.


Demographically and politically, the principal distinction within the seat is between Oldham West on the one side and the outlying towns of Chadderton and Royton on the other.

Turnout 2015 % White % 2011 Change White % 2001-11 Age 65+ % Social rent % Median household income Out of work benefits %
Chadderton Central 63.6 91.9 -5 15.9 19.7 £26,109 7.9
Chadderton North 62.5 78.4 -16 17.6 15.3 £26,944 8.5
Chadderton South 58.5 88.3 -8 17.8 14.0 £22,887 11.1
Coldhurst 62.8 27.1 -16 9.1 46.4 £17,950 19.9
Hollinwood 52.6 86.9 -7 13.4 39.5 £18,591 16.9
Medlock Vale 54.0 61.5 -16 10.8 26.3 £21,591 16.1
Werneth 58.9 23.4 -19 8.7 26.2 £19,516 16.4
Royton North 64.1 97.4 -1 22.1 16.7 £27,625 7.1
Royton South 60.3 93.5 -4 19.5 12.3 £26,630 7.5
OLDHAM WEST AND ROYTON 59.6 70.1 14.0 23.5
England 65.9 85.4 17.3 17.7












Sources: Oldham Business Intelligence Service Ward Profiles, 2015; Census 2011.

The wards within the constituency fall into two clearly defined clusters on many variables – household income, proportion of people aged over 65, proportion of social renting households, reliance on out of work benefits. Chadderton and Royton are older and better-off than west Oldham, although there are no areas of outstanding wealth.

The ethnic composition of the constituency is interesting. Parts of the constituency are in rapid transition, with the two central wards of Coldhurst and Werneth having moved from mixed to overwhelmingly Asian since 2011. The ethnic minority population is nearly all Muslim (24.6 per cent of the population are Muslim, 19 highest among 650 constituencies) and divided fairly equally between people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage. The growing Bangladeshi community in Coldhurst has expanded outwards into Chadderton North ward, leading to this previously nearly all white ward becoming more mixed. Chadderton South and Central, Royton and the white working class ward of Hollinwood, have been less affected by changing demographics; Royton in particular is much more white than the English average.

Turnout does not quite vary by income levels, because the mainly Asian wards in the centre are keener on electoral participation than some relatively deprived white working class wards (Medlock Vale, Hollinwood, Chadderton South).

Oldham council has produced a range of ward profiles with social and demographic information on each ward in the borough; they are available for download here.

2011 census data

  • One per cent white (575 out of 650 constituencies)
  • Five per cent Asian (29 highest constituency), nearly all of either Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage.
  • Six per cent Muslim (19 highest constituency)
  • Relatively high social renting – 23.5 per cent (125 highest constituency)
  • Low-skill and high unemployment local economy


Local politics

Labour regained control of Oldham borough council in 2011 after a four-year period of no overall control (the Liberal Democrats had some local successes and are relatively strong in the Saddleworth section of Oldham borough). Labour now has a strong majority with 45 councillors, opposed by 10 Liberal Democrats, two Conservatives, two Ukip and one independent. The perennial problems of byelections in safe Labour seats, namely a complacent lack of organisation and poor council performance, should be less of an influence than in some past byelections such as Rotherham.

All wards in Oldham West and Royton have voted Labour in all elections since 2010. At Labour’s low point in 2006-2008 the following wards voted for other parties:

  • Chadderton Central Conservative in 2007, 2008
  • Chadderton North Conservative in 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Coldhurst Lib Dem in 2006, 2007
  • Hollinwood Lib Dem in 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Royton South Lib Dem in 2006, 2008


Even so, the difference between west Oldham and the other two towns is noticeable from the local election results. In May 2015 Labour polled 45 per cent in the outlying towns and 64 per cent in west Oldham; the votes for the Conservatives were 21 per cent in the outlying towns and eight per cent in west Oldham. Ukip polled more consistently across the whole constituency, scoring around 25 per cent in most wards, with the exception of the two majority-Asian wards (Coldhurst, Werneth) and a strong showing in Chadderton South. Ukip ran second to Labour in the general election and in seven of the nine component wards (exceptions being Coldhurst – Liberal Democrat and Chadderton North – Conservative).

% local vote 2015 Con Lab Lib Dem Ukip Green
Chadderton Central 21.1 45.0 2.7 27.4 3.7
Chadderton North 25.2 45.0 4.1 22.0 3.8
Chadderton South 15.6 42.8 2.6 35.9 3.2
CHADDERTON 20.9% 44.3% 3.2% 28.1% 3.6%
Coldhurst 5.3 64.7 19.6 10.4 0.0
Hollinwood 10.3 54.0 3.5 28.9 3.3
Medlock Vale 12.5 54.6 3.2 25.0 4.6
Werneth 6.3 80.4 4.5 6.4 2.4
OLDHAM SOUTH/WEST 8.4% 63.8% 8.4% 17.0% 2.4%
Royton North 22.3 45.1 4.1 24.8 3.7
Royton South 21.4 46.0 4.4 25.3 2.9
ROYTON 21.9% 45.6% 4.2% 25.0% 3.3%











Oldham West map

Source: Ordnance Survey Election Maps


At first glance, Oldham West and Royton is, for Labour, unnervingly similar to the neighbouring constituency of Heywood and Middleton where Ukip nearly won an ostensibly ‘safe’ Labour seat in a by-election in October 2014. Royton and Chadderton are mill towns similar to those across the borough boundary and may be just as susceptible to Ukip. The south Oldham wards may also be reasonable Ukip territory.

There are differences; Labour are more dominant in Oldham West and Royton, polling about 10 points higher than in the Heywood and Middleton seat in each recent set of local elections. Heywood also had one strongly Conservative ward (Bamford), while Oldham West has none; nor did Heywood have anything like the two solidly Asian, Muslim and Labour wards in central Oldham (Coldhurst and Werneth). If those turn out and support Labour to their accustomed degree, they should be able to provide a decisive margin that Ukip will have to do very well in the rest of the seat to overhaul. Labour should be able to hold the constituency, although a strong second place for Ukip is highly likely.


Lewis Baston is a contributing editor to Progress and senior research fellow at Democratic Audit. He tweets @LewisBaston

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Comments: 29...

  1. On October 27, 2015 at 4:48 pm Norfolk29 responded with... #

    Time to get another top flight candidate into the Commons. There are about six excellent candidates that did not make it in May and should be given another chance. Wil Straw is an obvious one for consideration and would get my vote.

    • On October 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm Dave Roberts responded with... #

      He’ll be seen as parachuted in, which he will have been.

      • On October 28, 2015 at 2:42 pm Norfolk29 responded with... #

        You may remember Michael Foot. Well, in the 1959 General Election he was credited with running the best election campaign (to get himself elected) in the country. He did not get himself elected, nor did Blair in Gloucester in his first campaign. Foot was selected for Aneurin Bevan’s seat when Bevan’s died in 1960 and had a very successful career in the Commons. We need people like Wil Straw on the Labour benches and parachuting him in is not a problem for me.

        • On October 29, 2015 at 3:02 am Dave Roberts responded with... #

          Well good for you! It’s the local Labour Party which might be collectively pissed off and not campaign if someone like Straw is imposed. What the rest of your post is about I have no idea.

          • On October 29, 2015 at 8:56 am Norfolk29 responded with... #

            Let me spell it out. Most senior politicians are parachuted into the constituency they represent. This applied to Blair, Brown, Major, Churchill, Attlee and nearly every other politician in the Commons since universal suffrage. Neil Kinnock simply selected the constituency he wanted to represent and established himself there and waited for the sitting MP to retire. Labour needs some big hitters on its front bench and this is an opportunity to get one. Churchill moved around the country as the mode of his electorate changed.

          • On October 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm AHeadhunter responded with... #

            What makes you think Will (son of Trotskyite) Straw is a big hitter?

          • On October 30, 2015 at 10:17 pm Norfolk29 responded with... #

            Have you not seen him on TV or heard him on the radio? He is currently part of the EU Referendum debate on the Stay In side. Do a bit of research and decide for yourself.

          • On October 30, 2015 at 11:18 pm AHeadhunter responded with... #

            No I have not heard him on the radio. And I am instinctively opposed to political dynasties – Emily Benn, Euan Blair, Hilary Benn, Neil Kinnock’s brat, the Straw boy. It’s like bloody Groundhog day. They lost the argument then and they will lose it again. They should try working for a living. Ed Balls is a big hitter. Some privileged kid just out of university does not cut it for me. It is the same over the pond – Bushes and Clintons. They have three hundred million people there. What are the rest of them doing?

          • On October 31, 2015 at 8:29 am Norfolk29 responded with... #

            Shame that people have children who are better than they are. My son is already running a company employing 17 people. The best I ever did was employ a cleaner for one day a week. Think about it. Wil Straw and Justen Trudeau grew up in an environment where their father was in the news on a regular basis. Why not aim for that kind of career yourself. Unlike you, I am very impressed with Kinnock’s son and expect him to achieve office soon in the shadow cabinet.

  2. On October 28, 2015 at 9:45 am Christabel Cooper responded with... #

    This will be an interesting by-election – either proving or casting serious doubt on some of the claims made by those who backed Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership.

    One of their major claims is that non-voters represent a significant opportunity to increase the Labour vote. Turnout in Oldham West was 59%, lower than the national figure of 66%. If Corbyn does have the ability to pull in non-voters in big numbers then we should see a reverse in the general trend where by-elections attract a lower turnout than general elections.

    Another theory was that Corbyn would do better than the previous leadership in pulling back Labour voters who have turned to UKIP. It looks like Labour lost quite a lot of votes to UKIP in Oldham West from 2010 to 2015, despite increasing their overall share of the vote. Whilst the figures show a big increase for UKIP and a big decrease for the Lib Dems, I’m guessing that not very many people defected straight from one to the other. It’s much more likely that the ex Lib Dems mostly went straight to Labour and then a lot of existing Labour voters went to UKIP. The Lib Dem vote decreased by -15 points, whereas the Labour vote only went up by +9, presumably the gap must be roughly equal to the number of Labour voters who defected to UKIP.

    If Corbyn does have genuine appeal to the ex Labour white working class voters, then arguably we should see a DROP in the UKIP vote in the Medlock Vale, Hollinwood, Chadderton South wards where UKIP did very well at the General Election, and a consequent increase in the Labour vote. If this doesn’t happen, and UKIP actually does better than in the General Election then this will throw considerable doubt on the idea that a man who has qualms about singing the national anthem and wants to scrap Trident, will really appeal to the kind of voters attracted to UKIP.

    • On October 28, 2015 at 10:46 am Caracatus responded with... #

      good analysis – the Lib Dems might be keen to make a mark under their new leader, as opposed to Clegg who just wrote by-election off, that said, saving their deposit would be an achievement. UKIP voters also ought to go back to the Conservatives too, now they have got their referendum and back to Labour – (remember Farages past appeals to the old Labour party you loved and indeed the old conservative party you loved) So hopefully this will be a great chance to kill off UKIP as a serious contender in a set they came 2nd in.

      • On October 28, 2015 at 11:24 am Christabel Cooper responded with... #

        I hope you’re right! I would love to see the demise of UKIP. But I suspect it won’t happen till after the EU referendum.

        Whether we vote to stay or go, after the referendum UKIP doesn’t really have any purpose. As mikec pointed out above, they don’t have anything much to say on any other issue except Europe, and post-referendum they’ll be exposed as an unhappy contradiction between people like Carswell (who are ultra-capitalists who don’t like the EU because they guarantee too many rights for consumers and workers) and the majority of their voter base who are from the nationalist working class, who don’t like the EU because they think it doesn’t protect them enough.

        • On October 28, 2015 at 4:06 pm St Louis responded with... #

          And I’m looking forward with equal enthusiasm to the final fracturing of the Labour Party, even before they’ve had another crack at their historical role, viz running out of other peoples’ money.

      • On October 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm Dave Roberts responded with... #

        I don’t think you could be more wrong about ex Labour voters and UKIP. It is because of a Labour Party packed with Corbynistas that they gravitated to UKIP in the first place.

      • On October 28, 2015 at 4:04 pm St Louis responded with... #

        You won’t be killing off UKIP any time soon. They stand for a collection of policies that have much wider support in the country than those of you who live in the Labour Bubble can even begin to admit.

      • On October 30, 2015 at 8:11 pm Northerner1001 responded with... #

        The Lib Dems will not feature at all, it will be another lost deposit for them

    • On October 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm Dave Roberts responded with... #

      As with other areas with a large Asian population what they, or rather the power brokers and religious leaders do, will be decisive. Asians tend to be registered to vote and to do so as well as be involved in politics witness Tower Hamlets.

      • On October 28, 2015 at 12:52 pm Christabel Cooper responded with... #

        That’s absolutely what Lewis Baston’s articles suggests (and other articles I’ve read on Oldham West). I think (and hope!) that the Asian vote will determine the overall result in Labour’s favour, but if we do hold onto the seat then I still think the interesting thing will be to see what’s happened to the Labour vote in the white working class dominated wards. My suspicion is that Corbyn as leader will – if anything – have a negative impact.

        • On October 30, 2015 at 8:11 pm Northerner1001 responded with... #

          I disagree Christabel, i didn’t vote for Corbyn but i think Labour will hold this seat comfortably albeit on a reduced majority with the lower turnout. Labour’s problem will not be in safe seats like this (It’s 2.5 times safer than Heywood & Middleton before the byelection there) the problem will be in marginals with Corbyn, that’s the biggest worry

      • On October 30, 2015 at 12:48 am ExpatDavid responded with... #

        Asians will vote for who they are told (or paid) to vote for; that is how it works in their home countries.

      • On October 30, 2015 at 9:32 pm AHeadhunter responded with... #

        Ah, yes, Tower Hamlets. Now there is a beacon of democracy. Free and fair elections even. If this is the stuff of Labour aspiration then the Party really is a Dodo. This also explains the unfettered immigration of the 13 Bliar/Brown years. Fill up the country with Muslims so they will vote for you and then blow you up. What a pathetic excuse for a political party.

  3. On October 28, 2015 at 10:32 am ROY DRIVER responded with... #

    I am confident Labour will win Oldham but we need to pick a strong candidate will local connections and can unite and connect with Labour voters. We do not need a candidate who dropped in from London HQ that is politically suitable to the leadership.

    • On October 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm Dave Roberts responded with... #

      I have heard Owen Jones being a possible candidate. That would be a disaster.

      • On October 28, 2015 at 12:54 pm Christabel Cooper responded with... #

        I like Owen Jones as a journalist and commentator, he is rational and intelligent even if you disagree with him. I really hope that’s not true that he wants to actually be a politician – he’d be a loss to the world of journalism, and I don’t think would deliver nearly as much value as a politician.

        • On October 29, 2015 at 2:59 am Dave Roberts responded with... #

          He wouldn’t be a loss to the world of journalism in that he could still be paid for writing. He is a loss in that he writes rubbish. His book ” Chavs ” is utter crap as is most of his product.

      • On October 30, 2015 at 8:06 pm Northerner1001 responded with... #

        You’ve heard wrong then Dave

    • On October 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm Shirley Vargas responded with... #


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  4. On October 28, 2015 at 11:06 am mikec responded with... #

    Not heard a single syllable from UKIP about tax credits?
    Farage and Carswell probably up all night trying to work out a way of putting blame for the HOL decision on Europe.

  5. On October 30, 2015 at 8:06 pm Northerner1001 responded with... #

    Labour will hold the seat comfortably imo albeit with a reduced majority on account of a lower turnout
    It will be a local councillor standing for Labour i think
    UKIP according to the Telegraph are going to make it about Corbyn & his ‘anti monarchy & anti Falklands’ mantra errr yep that will help Oldhamers with their tax credits,jobs,schools, The NHS

    What a pathetic bunch of opportunists UKIP are!

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