Labour face, at time of press, two by-elections; Copeland and Stoke-On-Trent Central. I wish Labour’s candidates well.
Copeland Labour councillor, Gillian Troughton has been chosen to contest the Copeland seat and it looks like it will be a tough ask. A Remain campaigner during the EU Referendum, in an area that voted 62% to Leave. Troughton has also opposed the current Labour leadership and other candidates in elections across the country who have not been aligned with the current leadership have fared badly. More worrying is that, from a high of a win of 58% in 1997, Labour’s victories in Copeland have been on a downward trend culminating in the out going Jamie Reed inheriting a 50% victory in 2005 and reducing that lead year on year until reducing Labour’s lead to just 42% in 2015, a majority of just 2564 votes. It doesn’t bode well.
It is a similar story in the Stoke-On-Trent Central seat vacated by Tristram Hunt. A Labour election victory high of 66% in 1997 was reduced to just 38.8% in 2010 with Tristram Hunt, a fall from 2005 52.9%. Hunt held his ground in 2015 but was, notably, Britain’s least popular MP, elected by the fewest constituents. 69.4% voted for Leave in the EU Referendum.
Labour haven’t chosen their candidate for Stoke-On-Trent Central yet but they have an uphill battle to overcome Hunt’s legacy and an expected strong challenge from UKIP; the combined UKIP/Conservative vote in 2015 was 14,000 compared to Hunt’s 12,000.
It is also notable that both seats vacated by two of Labour’s Right MPs; one to a job in the nuclear industry and the other to a tax payer funded role at the V&A museum approved by the government, are among those earmarked to be lost in the Tories proposed boundary changes. Seats that may well not exist in 2020. Both seats are there to be won by Labour but the legacies of their vacating MPs will have to be overcome.