British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn passed a key electoral test on Friday when his Labour party won in the first regional ballot since he took the helm in September.
The win bolsters the embattled leader of Britain’s main opposition group amid mounting talk of a leadership challenge, and as the anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP) targets voters in former Labour strongholds.
“It’s a clear demonstration that Labour is the party working people trust,” Corbyn tweeted in the early hours of Friday after the result was announced in the constituency of Oldham West and Royton, northern England.
Labour candidate Jim McMahon won the ballot with a majority of 10,835, down from a majority of almost 15,000 enjoyed by the last lawmaker to hold the seat, Labour’s Michael Meacher.
His death in October triggered the Thursday vote, in a part of England that has long identified with left-leaning Labour, but where UKIP is now making inroads with its promises to leave the EU and sharply cut immigration.
UKIP’s candidate came second with 6,487 votes.
Corbyn has had a wobbly start to his tenure as Labour leader, with many party members openly defying his anti-war, left-wing stance, stoking speculation of an eventual coup.
In a parliamentary vote on Wednesday on whether Britain should join US-led air strikes in Syria, some 67 of Labour’s 231 lawmakers voted in favour of bombing.
They included Corbyn’s foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn, whose eloquent speech in favour of military action prompted some experts to tout him as Corbyn’s possible replacement.