There is nothing wrong with ordering an analysis of Labour’s defeat in Copeland. The result could be surprising – what would have happened if a third of the rural polling stations hadn’t been suffering power cuts due to Storm Doris, as has been mentioned?
But this will be meaningless without understanding why Labour won in Stoke-on-Trent Central.
Reading the Guardian article, did you notice how Stoke Central has magically transformed itself into a “rock-solid” Labour seat, instantly depriving Jeremy Corbyn (and Gareth Snell) of any credit for the victory against the Tories and UKIP. And let’s not forget that UKIP’s leader, Paul Nuttall, had put himself up for election in Stoke. His defeat is a huge symbolic blow to the Eurosceptic party.
Only on September 18, The Graun was describing Stoke Central as “especially unpredictable because of the expected very low turnout”; on September 6, Graun stalwart Polly Toynbee wrote, “No one sensible would call this unpredictable byelection”. What changed? Oh yes – Labour won.
But the plan was still to attack Jeremy Corbyn, no matter what. Labour supporters were predicting a swing in media coverage to deprive the Labour leader of any credit for a victory and we were right.
And what about UKIP? In the same article, Ms Toynbee wrote: “For Ukip the stakes could not be higher. Lose here and the party is well and truly dead: its new leader, and its candidate here, Paul Nuttall buried on his first outing.”
But nobody is campaigning for Mr Nuttall to resign. He and his party seem to have been given a free pass for failure.
Meanwhile, in Labour, we hear criticism from senior figures who should know when to keep their mouths shut.
Is Tom Watson still running the so-called Project Anaconda, that would see him “isolating and weakening” Mr Corbyn and ultimately “crushing the life out of his leadership”, according to internal party emails seen by the Huffington Post?
With no evidence to the contrary, we’ll have to consider his latest words to be evidence that he is.
Oh, and we’re nearly two years into a Tory government, by the way – not seven. From 2010 to 2015 we had a Coalition government. Let’s not forget the Liberal Democrat role in the UK’s current woes.
He is right to refer to the party’s self-destruction in Scotland, but we should all notice that he has drawn the wrong conclusions.
Scottish voters abandoned Labour because they considered it to have become a pale imitation of the Conservative Party, rather than representing the real needs of the people.
Watson is right that Labour cannot afford to see that happen in England, but it is right-wing members like him who are doing their best to ensure that it does, by calling for a policy shift back toward the direction that lost Scotland.
All this is clear – but just you watch Watson, Starmer, Coyne and the rest try to spin it. No wonder voters are confused.
The best option for Labour? No question: Remove Watson. Sack Starmer, if he can’t do his job without attacking his boss. Reject Coyne.
They are the problem, not the solution. Let us see how Mr Corbyn manages without the huge drag factor they represent.
But – yes – by all means hold an inquiry into Labour’s performance – at both by-elections.
And make sure it is fair.
Senior Labour figures have demanded that Jeremy Corbyn orders a full postmortem on the party’s byelection humiliation in Copeland – amid fears that it could spark a meltdown in England comparable to Labour’s 2015 annihilation in Scotland.
Deputy leader Tom Watson and Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer both delivered pointed criticism of Corbyn for his refusal to take any blame for the loss of the Labour stronghold, saying it was time for the leadership to undertake a thorough re-examination of the party’s entire direction.
Pressure on Corbyn mounted further as Gerard Coyne, who is challenging Corbyn’s close ally Len McCluskey for the leadership of the super-union Unite, weighed in. Coyne suggested in an interview with the Observer that the union was wasting its money backing a party led by Corbyn.
Corbyn admitted to disappointment at the [Copeland]result but took comfort from Labour retaining the rock-solid seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central in the face of a challenge from Ukip. Asked if he should look in the mirror and blame himself for the Copeland debacle, the Labour leader merely said, “No.”
Watson said he was “hugely disappointed” with a result that meant “that all of us with leadership roles need to have a long, hard look at ourselves and ask what’s not working. Seven years into a Tory government, we shouldn’t be facing questions about whether we can hold the seats we already hold.”
Referring to the party’s virtual wipe-out north of the border, he said: “Here in Scotland, you’ve seen what happens when Labour’s long-term supporters stop voting Labour. We can’t afford to have that happen in England, too. This is not the time for a leadership election. That issue was settled last year. But we have to do better. We cannot sustain this level of distance from the electorate, from our natural supporters.”
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