Last week, national political commentators mulled over the result of Salford's local Kersal by-election, concluding that Labour lost the seat it had held for decades due to some anti-Jeremy Corbyn factor.
Guido Fawkes decided that the loss to the Tory candidate, Arnie Saunders, was a 'Shocker for Labour' as "those on the ground are already saying anti-Semitism was a factor". What?
Labour List also reported that "Many have feared that Labour has lost credibility in the community as a result of the poor handling of anti-Semitism complaints in the party".
Even Swinton Labour councillor, Heather Fletcher, reported on Facebook that "All my neighbours and people I spoke to at the hairdressers today have all told me that they decided to vote Tory because they liked Rabbi Saunders and because they think Corbyn is an inept leader". People in the hairdressers?
While those with vested interests are using the result as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn, it is quite obvious to anyone that the Labour votes in Kersal were lost to Jonny Wineberg, standing on behalf of the Kersal Moor Residents Association (KMRA) as an Independent.
And during the campaign, Jonny Wineberg never even mentioned Corbyn. His electioneering centred on the lack of consultation and transparency at Salford City Council, kicked off by the inept democracy surrounding the planning application for the redevelopment of the Moor Lane stadium for Salford City FC (see previous Salford Star article for the background – click here)
In 2016, Labour held the Kersal seat with a 277 majority, polling 1,219 votes compared to 942 for the Tories on a turnout of 31%. In 2017, on a shocking turnout of just over 24%, the Tory vote was 850 and the Labour Party vote had slumped to 553. The Labour vote hadn't suddenly gone to the Conservatives. It had largely gone to Jonny Wineberg who polled 354 votes.
Kersal resident, Alice Searle, a Labour Party supporter, actually managed Jonny Wineberg's campaign - and it had nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn...
"As a Labour Party supporter, I decided, after much thought and reflection on the recent behaviour of the Labour controlled Council, that a local person with no affiliation to any party, would be a progressive move" she explained to the Salford Star
"The biased and undemocratic behaviour of the Council, in dismissing the well researched case of the residents on the development of the SCFC left me shocked" she added "I envisaged another Labour councillor being elected who would toe the line, irrespective of local opinion...My loyalty to the local Labour Party had been tested and I felt a personal drive for justice and honesty.
"Personally, I am not happy that we now have a Tory Councillor, but the KMRA and the Friends of Kersal Moor will hold him to his promises" she said "It will not be an easy seat for him to occupy."
Another resident who switched from voting for Labour to the Independent added: "I always vote for Labour so this has nothing to do with Corbyn; rather it has to do with the total lack of community engagement shown by our local Labour representatives and their dismissal of the Kersal residents' concerns around the Moor Lane stadium plans, as well as the shocking lack of transparency around the planning application."
David Mintz from Kersal Moor Residents Association underlined the sentiments... "From talking to local residents it is clear that we have taken a great percentage of votes from Labour on the basis that the people believe that the Salford Labour Council has failed them" he said
"A red-faced number of Labour activists have been taking to social media to quickly blame their embarrassing loss on Jeremy Corbyn: this, frankly, is absolute nonsense" he insisted "Corbyn's popularity amongst certain sections of the voting public isn't the factor here, it is a much more localised issue of residents feeling betrayed by the very councillors that they elected to represent them.
"With little notice, we mobilised 17.5% of the voters to send a clear message to local Labour" he added "It's disappointing but entirely characteristic of these same local Labour activists to sound the retreat whilst simultaneously firing a few shots at their boss in Whitehall. Once again they are guilty of not hearing the clear message being sent by their own voters.
"Looking at the swing, it appears that whilst Conservatives won, their actual gain in terms of percentages was negligible if at all, whereas Labour saw a massive drop of 21.5% in their vote. This was a local election fought and lost for Labour on local issues, not the popularity of their leader. The message to Labour? Ignore your local residents at your peril, and anyone looking for 354 lost votes should contact the KMRA lost property office."
Meanwhile, Swinton Councillor Heather Fletcher, who lives in the Kersal ward, went much further on a Facebook post, accusing Jonny Wineberg of being "economical with the truth", and, Donald Trump style, accusing the Salford Star of 'supporting the Independent candidate' (see screenshot).
When Salford Star editor, Stephen Kingston, responded that the Star never tells anyone how to vote, nor endorses any candidate, the Labour councillor responded "I heard that the Salford Star paid for the Independent candidate's leaflets"... (the Salford Star can't even afford to pay to get its own magazine out!).
KMRA's David Mintz concluded: "For what might be considered a small local election there has been a tremendous amount of sleaze and petty personal attacks by Labour councillors and activists across social media. Puerile and childish personal attacks which verge on slander should have no place in the 'kinder politics' that we have been promised from Labour.
"Jonny Wineberg will continue to work closely with local residents as a local resident" he added "As newcomers with little of the resources or manpower of the larger established political organisations, he made an absolutely applaudable and respectable third place and ultimately cost the Labour Party a victory. We will continue to hold the Council and councillors to account for any issue effecting our residents and local neighbourhood."
Whatever the spin of local Labour Party activists and national political pundits - who have probably never set foot in Salford - the Kersal by-election result was everything to do with how the Labour Party runs Salford Council and its absolute lack of accountability, transparency and, ultimately, democracy.*
It was nowt to do with Jeremy Corbyn's policies, and definitely nowt to do with any sudden upsurge of popularity for the Tories in Salford.
The full result of the Kersal by-election 2017...
Arnie Saunders - Conservative Party 850
Mike Pevitt - Labour Party 553
Jonny Wineberg - Independent 354
Christopher Barnes - UK Independence Party 182
Jason Reading - Green Party 48
Adam Slack - Liberal Democrats 39
Votes cast: 2,033
Void votes: 7
* See also previous Salford Mayor Joe Stalin Award Article - click here