It’s very late, so this will be very short. Labour won more than 50% more votes in Stoke Central than the nearest challenger in spite of a candidate with a problematic history.
In Copeland, the Tories won a victory that will certainly be the monomaniacal focus of the media on Friday.
What the two seats had in common were atrocious departing Labour MPs – and lacklustre candidates with a history of anti-Corbyn comments.
In Stoke, Labour’s grassroots activists were able to overcome those disadvantages to secure a strong win.
In Copeland, they weren’t. But nobody should be surprised, as the result has been on its way since long before Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader.
Here are the party’s vote shares since Labour’s landslide in 1997:
Departing MP Jamie Reed took over in 2005 and lost votes in every election since. The promise of a genuine alternative might have been enough to reverse that trend in 2017 – but only with a candidate that genuinely embodied those values. As an outspoken opponent of Corbyn until her candidacy, Gillian Troughton was never likely to persuade enough voters that she really stood for something different rather than the ‘more of the same’ that Jamie Reed had offered.
The real victim in Copeland is the NHS and those who rely on it, as Theresa May will undoubtedly exploit the Tories’ win to claim she has the country’s confidence as she and her party gut the NHS hollow to the detriment of the vast majority.
For that, we should all mourn. For a day or so. And then we roll up our sleeves and fight.
Not just the obvious enemies – the Tories and the media – but the ‘enemies within’ that undermine Labour at every opportunity and in doing so show they don’t care a jot for the wellbeing of ordinary people like you and me.
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