Labour retains Stoke Central; Tories gain Copeland – but who are the real winners?

Would it be uncharitable to say the most likely result of yesterday’s by-elections is that the people of Copeland will get radiation poisoning that won’t be treated in time because they’ll have lost their NHS services?

Yes, it probably would. But we will all need to watch developments there hawkishly; Trudy Harrison has been elected on a series of promises and will need to be kept to them.

Of course, the Copeland result is partly due to the Labour Party having to split its resources in order to fight two by-elections, while the Tories concentrated on one seat and left UKIP’s Paul Nuttall to try to take Stoke-on-Trent Central, which he made a proper pig’s-ear of doing.

Pundits are now free to claim that Labour is weak, despite the Stoke win; that the Tories are much stronger, despite the clear choice to concentrate on one constituency rather than the other; and to give UKIP a free pass, despite the fact that the party’s new leader lost a sixth successive Parliamentary election and his party’s influence on UK politics is clearly broken.

Theresa May’s Tories have managed the first by-election win of a ruling party since 1982 – and that does say something. It says that politics has become far more complicated since that event, more than three decades ago. People have become confused about what each political party stands for – they all tell us they are for working-class people but only Labour actually follows through on the promise, for example. The people of Copeland will learn all about Tory lies in the near future.

Brexit was a complicating factor, and the Labour memberships of both Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland should think very hard about whether their choice of candidate was a factor in the depression of their votes.

Gillian Troughton, in Copeland, was a Remain supporter campaigning in a constituency where 60 per cent of people voted for Brexit. She was an opponent of Jeremy Corbyn (making any questions to her about his effect meaningless) and a Labour right-winger.

So the by-election in Copeland shows that Labour supporters don’t like candidates who don’t support Corbyn – and, to be honest, so does the by-election in Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Gareth Snell did not support Mr Corbyn’s re-election as Labour leader, and was also a Remain supporter. He won with a reduced share of the vote because UKIP and the Conservatives were keeping each other from taking the seat.

So what does this mean for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour?

We can all expect more – and very harsh – criticism of Mr Corbyn, from both outside the Labour Party and within. But he won’t be stepping down any time soon.

Conversely, we can also expect more calls for the party to unite behind him. These by-election results show that Corbyn-sceptic candidates aren’t fantastically popular and Labour should stop fielding them. The public wants people who support Labour’s current, socialist policies – not more neoliberals. John McDonnell has already called out Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for their backstabbing efforts in the days before the by-elections.

We can also expect media attention to turn away from Copeland very quickly. If the Tories fail to support the people of that constituency – as we know they will – the Tory-supporting press will be keen to hide that from the rest of the country. It will be Labour’s duty to ensure that the rest of us are told exactly what happens there, even when the likes of the Daily Mail are throwing proverbial dead cats at us.

Some commentators would like us to believe that this is an ending. It is not. It is merely a punctuation point in a long process. So don’t be fooled.

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6 thoughts on “Labour retains Stoke Central; Tories gain Copeland – but who are the real winners?

  1. Fibro confused

    Was it anti Corbyn people in Copeland? I admit I found the candidate uninspiring to say the least. Honestly there is a mountain to climb, to get Jeremy the real Jeremy out there not the one touted by the media or the Blarites in the party.

    The people who canvassed in Stoke deserve huge congratulations the fly in the ointment there was Nutty Nuttall any residents who voted for him or his party after all the dreadful goings on these last few weeks are desperate for change the same as Americans with Trump. These are the people we have to convince how?

    I and people like me are desperate for Jeremy to succeed and we will continue to do battle politely with anyone who has fallen for the media spin on him. The alternative is unthinkable

  2. Charlie Mansell

    In most recent by-elections there has been a pro-JC candidate on the members ballot (eg Richmond, Tooting, Copeland etc) but the local members have often not selected them. This reflects the mix of political decisions in the party which features an NEC with at least 10 out of 35 whose vote is mixed as opposed to the 13 firm left votes and 12 right votes. Also the 4 regional conferences that show no evidence that of a shift further left since the 62% right-voting annual conference inevitably passing rules many members would not like. At the same time the 43% to 31% vote in the Momentum elections for “Platform” based politics as opposed to delegate based “Gateway” politics (whilst the number of votes cast for candidates who specifically opposed the new Momentum structures was 37% to 63% who did not express opposition) illustrates the party is simply not as Manichean as some think and after two years now has settled down to operate on a wide continuum of views, which is what one would expect in the Party with no leadership elections happening

  3. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421)

    Party members need to start thinking about electing a local candidate of substance in Copeland as soon as possible and then highlight the Tories shortcomings right up to next election.

    Clearly we need people that are Labour not Neo-Liberal Tory light, we also need to educate party members as to the real issues so that they can explain why Jeremy is right and they have been wrong for all these decades.

    A very simple message in answer to the Tories claim that we can’t afford our public services, so how do we pay for it? Is, how did we manage it in the past, how did we bail out the Banks at time when the whole world banking system had crashed?

    The truth is we can afford it but the Tories are deliberately underfunding all our public services in order to privatise them.

  4. Martin

    No government in power has won a seat from the opposition – supposed opposition – in a by-election for nearly 35 years, Mike. If Labour hasn’t got the go to challenge the Tories in two by-elections in ultra-safe Labour seats without losing one to the Conservatives, what chance is there that Labour can not only hang on to all of its current seats but gain over a hundred new seats, from other parties, needed to achieve a majority?

    As a political party we are circling the drain, Mike.

    We need to face up to this obvious fact and try to do something about it.

    If we can’t win we should start thinking about cutting our losses.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Bear in mind also that Jamie Reed was an extremely right-wing Labour MP. He didn’t have the necessaries to turn Copeland around and in the end abdicated responsibility for it. Then Mr Corbyn’s choice of candidate was rejected in favour of another right-wing Corbyn-sceptic who lost the seat. We can all see where the problem lies, thank you very much.
      Copeland was not an “ultra-safe” Labour seat, as other commenters have pointed out. Check your facts before bringing propaganda onto This Site. Nor was Stoke-on-Trent Central. Only today, I have had to write an article pointing out how media descriptions of the constituency have changed to make it seem that way – now – after describing it as highly marginal all the way through the campaign. It’s as though they were encouraging people to vote against Labour, isn’t it?
      The only think circling the drain is your rhetoric, Martin.
      The obvious think to do about Labour’s problems is ditch the right-wingers who are holding the party back. In that sense, you are right about cutting our losses.

  5. Dez

    The whole country knows the Torys are total liars who hardly deliver anything that they widly promise just to get votes. The Corbyn media bashers had obviously already written up their work prior to the results.

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