Jim McMahon has become the 25th Labour and Co-operative MP, after a win in Oldham West and Royton. It was Labour’s first byelection challenge since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.
The byelection took place following the death of Michael Meacher, who passed away aged 75 in October. Mr Meacher was an outspoken member of the party’s left wing, and was one of the MPs who had nominated Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
Following the results, Mr McMahon said: “I am delighted to have been elected tonight. Michael Meacher was a close friend of mine and he was admired by people across the country as someone who worked tirelessly for the causes he believed in. I will do my best to live up to those high standards.
“My sole focus has always been on what is best for Oldham, I want to make our town a better place for my sons to grow up in and make it somewhere they can be proud of – my priority will always be Oldham.”
Co-operative Party general secretary, Claire McCarthy, added: “We are delighted by the result in Oldham West & Royton, and welcome Jim McMahon as our newest Labour & Co-operative MP.
“As leader of Oldham Council and founding chair of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network, Jim has been at the forefront of the transformation that has taken place in local government in the past decade.
“Under his leadership, Oldham has led the way in putting the voice of local people at the heart of service delivery, pioneered the development of co-op approaches in social care and energy and supported the local co-operative sector through ethical procurement.”
A long time co-operator, Mr McMahon was first elected to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council in November 2003 as a Labour councillor for Failsworth East ward. He became leader of the opposition in 2008 and in 2011, at the age of 31, became one of the youngest council leaders in the country after Labour regained control of Oldham.
On entering office, he immediately scrapped the leader’s chauffeur-driven car and credit card, and declared an ambition for Oldham to become a co-operative council, which it describes as “one where citizens, partners and staff work together to improve the borough and create a confident and ambitious place… Put simply, becoming a co-operative borough is about everybody doing their bit and everybody benefiting.”
Following the new designation, Mr McMahon said: “Put very simply we work with the people of Oldham to create a shared future, using all the energy and resources we can muster towards the same aim. Not one fighting against the other.
“We know there is work to do but we believe our co-operative ambition creates opportunity and a future for our borough.”
He has represented Labour councillors on the party’s National Executive Committee since 2014, and was the inaugural chair of the Co-operative Council Innovation Network, a collaboration between local authorities committed to transforming the way they work with communities, and which aims to be an active hub for co-operative policy development, innovation and advocacy.
“As the fiscal squeeze tightens and long-term pressures exert themselves, local government faces difficult challenges,” said Mr McMahon last year. “Many local authorities are finding it hard to resist the temptation of managing decline. But co-operative councils up and down the country are responding by transforming the way they work; developing closer relationships with their communities and trying to build more resilient and prosperous places.
“We are seeing the emergence of a new co-operative localism that is rooted in place rather than structure. Those that are part of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN) are not seeing their role simply in terms of becoming cooperative local authorities, but as helping to build co-operative places. Our aim isn’t to tweak council bureaucracy. It is to unlock the potential of where we live.”
Thursday’s byelection saw a turnout of 40.26% and a 62% vote share for Labour, with 17,209 votes. Ukip’s John Bickley was runner-up, with 6,487. The Conservatives were third on 2,596, followed by the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Monster Raving Loony party.
Mr McMahon added: “We need to remember what is currently at stake under this Tory government. While everyone is looking the other way they are quietly pushing through cuts that will change the face of towns like Oldham.
“The sooner we kick the Tories out and get a Labour government back in the better for all of us. The hard work starts now.”