Stoke and Copeland By-Elections, the Aftermath.
This is the full statement published by Jeremy Corbyn in the aftermath of the results of the two by-elections.
Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division and dishonesty. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland.
In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus.
The Stoke victory is important, (Independent)
Labour has secured an emphatic victory in Stoke-on-Trent Central after fending off Ukip’s Paul Nuttall, raising doubts over the right-wing party’s ability to capitalise on Brexit.
Labour’s Gareth Snell, who won 7,853 votes to Ukip’s 5,233, said the result showed “hatred and bigotry” were not welcome in Stoke, a former industrial city which has been a safe Labour seat since 1950.
Mr Nuttall managed to increase Ukip’s share of the vote by just two per cent despite the city’s strong support for leaving the EU.
The Conservative candidate, Jack Brereton, was narrowly pushed into third place with 5,154 votes, while the Liberal Democrats finished in fourth place with 2,083 votes. Turnout was just 38 per cent.
“Over these last few weeks a city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that,” Mr Snell said in his victory speech.
“This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.
“Nor will we be divided by race, or faith, or creed.
“Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear.
“We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.”
But…. the “political establishment” and the “political consensus” around Theresa May show no signs of weakening after the Copeland result.
John McDonnell has insisted the Labour Party leadership is not in denial as he blamed disunity in the party for its humiliating defeat in the Copeland by-election.
The shadow chancellor said Labour would “learn lessons” from the result, but said it had not been a verdict on the party leader. “This isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn,” McDonnell said.
“We are in a difficult period over these last 20 months because of these leadership challenges and the divisions that have been sown within our party. The vast majority of our members want us now to unite and to campaign and hold the government to account, and that’s what we will do,” he told the BBC.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme, McDonnell was asked if he was in “denial” about the the position the party found itself in. “Not at all,” he said. “Quite the reverse.”
And he blamed Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson for launching “attacks” on the party in the days leading up to the vote. “Please don’t do that,” he said.
Copeland has been held by the party since it was formed in 1983 but Tory Trudy Harrison snatched it by 2,147 votes in a historic victory. It is the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition for decade. Harrison polled 13,748 votes to 11,601 for Labour’s Gillian Troughton.
John Woodcock, the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said Labour under Corbyn was “on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat”. He added: “We are in trouble as a party.”
Jamie Reed, the former Labour MP for Copeland whose decision to resign from parliament triggered the by-election also warned his former colleagues they were in trouble.
Labour backbencher David Winnick told the Press Association Corbyn should consider his position.
The party is faced with the problem of a leader who is simply not acceptable to a large number of people who would normally vote Labour That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that,” he said.
“It is now entirely up to Jeremy and those close to him to decide what is best in the interests not simply of the party but the people we are in politics to represent.”
Labour’s majority in the Copeland at the general election was just 2,564. But for an opposition to lose a seat to the party of power in a mid-term vote is extremely rare.
The last time it happened was the 1982 Merton, Mitcham and Morden by-election, although technically it was a Conservative gain from SDP as the sitting MP had defected from Labour to the SDP before the poll. Before that, the closest comparable case was Sunderland South in 1953.
Labour earlier held Stoke-on-Trent Central after seeing off a concerted challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.
But Corbyn admitted the party had failed to get its message through in Cumbria. “Labour’s victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of Ukip’s politics of division and dishonesty,” he said.
“But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland. In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
“To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”
Patrick McLoughlin, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the Tory victory in Copeland was not just a rejection of Corbyn but a pro-active “endorsement of the Conservative Party”.
Mandelson and Blair’s interventions have helped nobody but themselves, and the former Prime Minister’s speech on Europe, from somebody with the politics of liberal globalisation, has only done harm to those left-wing pro-Europeans who wish for ‘Another Europe is Possible”.
What effect this may have had on these by-elections is pure conjecture.
Whether one likes it or not this article in the New Statesman, a cold shower of scepticism, is a necessary warning to those wishing to explain away the Copeland defeat: 5 things Labour has blamed for the Copeland by-election defeat. Other than Labour, of course. (Media Mole).
Whatever one thinks of Corbyn, for or against, and all points in-between, there remain the overriding problem of how to “reconnect with voters.”
The result is considered by one of Europe’s leading dailies, Le Monde, to be related to Corbyn’s “attitude ambiguë” towards Brexit. “Cette confusion” they note, supporting Theresa May in voting for Brexit plans, but claiming to not give her a “chèque en blanc” has eroded Labour supporters’ hopes (Royaume-Uni : défaite cuisante des travaillistes à une élection partielle.)
But would a call for Labour to be clearly opposed to Brexit and appeal to Remain voters work?
Given the divisions amongst those who may vote Labour but are not firm Labour supporters, this is unlikely to provide an answer.
But is this: a call for more internal uncertainty?