Five Team Corbyn explanations/excuses* for losing the Copeland by-election

Written by David Singleton on 24 February 2017 in Diary

*Delete as appropriate

By winning in Copeland last night, the Conservatives beat Labour in an area it represented for more than 80 years.

On a turnout of 51%, the Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison won 13,748 votes. Labour’s Gillian Troughton was left trailing on 11,601.

So who - or what - are allies of Jeremy Corbyn blaming for the historic defeat?


1. Unique circumstances

John McDonnell claimed there were exceptional circumstances in the constituency because of the local economy’s dependence on the nuclear industry.
He told ITV;s Good Morning Britain: Over the last couple of elections the Labour vote has been declining. But in addition to that, the one big issue there was nuclear. The NHS was an issue that we campaigned on but the nuclear [issue] dominated and we couldn’t cut through on that one…They weren’t convinced that the party supported the nuclear industry… There was that one unique issue around the nuclear industry. In other constituencies that is not the case.”


2. Fake news

Emily Thornberry told Sky News that “fake news” about Jeremy Corbyn’s views on nuclear power had cost Labour.
“Word had got out that Jeremy was not in favour of nuclear power – that isn’t true, that is what you call ‘fake news’ and we were having great difficulty fighting that,” said the shadow foreign secretary.


3. Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson

McDonnell also predictably pointed the finger of blame at the two architects of New Labour.

“We can’t have a situation like we did last week where Tony Blair comes out and attacks his own party, Peter Mandelson as well. So we’re saying to those people… unite because people will then see the real Labour party campaigning and we’ll win back places like Copeland,” he said.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone and shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald agreed.
Livingstone said: “If you actually look at the collapse in the vote, back 20 years ago when Tony Blair won his first election we got 58% of the vote in Copeland; two years ago at the last election, that had collapsed down to about 4% more than we got yesterday.

“This isn’t a decline that’s happened under Jeremy; it’s been happening for 20 years.”

McDonald said that “people like Peter Mandelson who should be looking at themselves and asking how they are serving the Labour party”.




4. General distrust of politicians (apart from Jeremy Corbyn)

Labour’s campaign chief Ian Lavery claimed the Tories won the seat because people feel a general distrust of politicians - but not Jeremy Corbyn.

In a combative interview on the Daily Politics, he claimed Jeremy Corbyn was “one of the most popular politicians in the country”.

Lavery refused to say the shock defeat was a reflection on his party’s leader, insisting instead:

“There's a real problem in areas like Copeland, they feel disenfranchised from politics, they feel left behind by politicians…. Jeremy Corbyn wasn't something that cropped up a lot on the doorstep when I was there - it was a general distrust in politicians.”


5. Jamie Reed

Former Newsnight and Channel 4 journalist and Corbyn-backer Paul Mason pointed the finger of blame at squarely at Jamie Reed for vacating his seat in Coperand.

He wrote on his blog: "For socialists in the Labour Party it will be a relief that the Blairite plan to stage two electoral disasters on one night failed. Nobody can claim losing Copeland was Jeremy Corbyn’s 'fault': the fault lies with the careerist right-winger who abandoned the seat in mid-session to take a better job."




Outside of Team Corbyn, Labour backbencher David Winnick said Corbyn was an “obstacle” to victory and should consider his position.

The veteran MP for Walsall North stated: “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.

“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.”

Another Labour MP said of Corbyn: “He's a liability, I definitely wouldn't have him campaign in my constituency.”


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