Remember when people voted Leave in the EU referendum as a protest vote against the Tories? A bit those American voters who didn’t turn out for Hillary Clinton and No voters in Scotland, they woke up with regrets. Voters in Copeland and Stoke face the same situation. Sure, Labour voters who are not happy about the leadership’s position on supporting triggering Article 50 probably won’t vote Tory or UKIP but they may think that casting their vote with the LibDems is a safe way to protest; after all, the LibDems new slogan is something about being ‘the real opposition’.
Firstly, let’s put aside that the LibDems only have 9 MPs and Farron could only convince seven of them to vote with him against the bill, and Farron was one on the seven. I could run out a litany of things against the LibDems but they are really not the problem and they are currently running, mainly, on the position that they oppose leaving the EU. I have no issue with people who think that leaving the EU is a bad idea because I’m one of those people (though I would also add that my main concern about leaving the EU has always been one of who we are putting in charge of that process. The Tories, even if you put aside their atrocious ideological position, are a shower of absolute shit. ANY government that finds a home for the disgraced MPs like Liam Fox and Boris Johnson is more freak show than government, and so it has proven).
If Copeland and or Stoke-on-Trent Central fall to the Tories/UKIP then the interests of Remainers will be cocked into a hat and the best interests of Labour leavers will be cocked into a very similar hat. Labour are up against it in both seats but the LibDems are not even in the running. If the LibDems really are the party of opposition then they’d throw their support behind the Labour candidates. Why? In both Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central, Labour’s vote has been reduced by the MPs who quit to trigger the by-elections. Tale of the tape time:
In Copeland in 2015: Labour received 16,750 votes. The combined Tory/UKIP vote was 22,340. The LibDems vote was 1,368. The Greens vote was 1,179.
In 2010: Labour’s vote was 19,699. The Tory vote was 15,866. LibDems 4,365. BNP 1,474. UKIP 994. The Greens 389.
In Stoke-on-Trent Central in 2015: Labour received 12,220. The combined Tory/UKIP vote was 14,049. The LibDems vote was 1,296. The Greens vote was 1,123. An Independent vote was 2,120.
In 2010: Labour’s vote was 12,605. LibDems 7,039. Tory 6,833. BNP 2,502. UKIP 1,402.
Those are not encouraging figures. Both seats are likely to disappear in the Tory boundary changes for 2020, which probably saved the MPs who quit the seats the embarrassment of losing them.
If Labour face a combined vote in Copeland they stand little chance of winning, even if the LibDems and The Greens throw their lot in with them. Labour would need to replicate voting numbers like they achieved in 1997, when they benefited from the backlash against 18 years of Tory government and achieved 24,077.
If Labour face a combined vote in Stoke-on-Trent Central they might win a very close contest if LibDem and Green voters throw in their lot or if the Independent candidate’s voters throw in with Labour, but it will be very close. Labour would need to go back to 2005 levels of votes, when they achieved 14,760, to win the seat. Whilst Labour could clearly afford to lose the two MPs who quit the seats, the timing of the risk of increasing the Tory/UKIP majority in Parliament could not have come at a worse time. Coincidental that both MPs chose to quit when they did? I guess history will judge once someone tells the tales in their memoirs.
The voters in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central have been set up to deliver two losses to Labour to provide pressure to apply to the leadership and, one presumes, to provide a bogus excuse for yet another vote of no confidence and another leadership challenge. The by-product will be a more ensconced Tory/UKIP ‘brexit’. With Labour diminished by two MPs and the Tories/UKIP increased by two, Theresa May and her government of spivs, shills, and hucksters will have far more freedom than they have even now. If you feel like we are being railroaded into giving away the NHS in exchange for trade deals with the likes of Donald Trump then, faced with even less opposition and chance for oversight, the carpetbagger May will lead Britain to the knackers yard.
Leave voters have been lied to by the Tories/UKIP, Remain voters have been underserved by them, Copeland and Stoke have the first opportunities to take a stand and begin to hold the Tories/UKIP to account. Like it or not, Labour are the Tory/UKIP opposition. We are witnessing just how bad a Tory government can be under the hapless appeasenik May. Conservative voters have as much to lose from Labour losing these seats as Labour voters.