Labour’s defeat in Copeland this Thursday bodes ill for the party’s electoral prospects.
It is the first time a governing party has made a by-election gain since the Mitcham and Morden by-election of 1982. Labour had held Copeland for eight decades. But no more…
A boost for the PM
The Conservative victory is a great boost to Theresa May. Indeed, in an article for the Daily Mail, Peter Oborne likens her position to that of Margaret Thatcher’s in 1982 :
“Her win in Cumbria puts her in a position of strength which recalls Margaret Thatcher at the height of her powers in the early Eighties.”
Labour drifts further from power
Conversely, it is a disaster for Labour.
David Miliband has said that Labour is further from power than at any time in the last half a century.
Yes, the party succeeded in clinging on in the Stoke-On-Trent by-election, but in both by-elections it saw its share of the vote reduced from the 2015 General Election. That’s worrying news for Labour when one considers that the opposition party usually increases its share of the vote in by-elections as voters give the government a what-for.
Corbyn clings on
Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not resign.
Despite the parlous state of the Labour Party, he is likely to remain its leader for the time being. The last Labour leadership contest took place in September 2016. In other words, it was too recent. Labour MPs who want another leader – that’s most of them – will have to bide their time if they are not too risk insulting the party membership. It may take a defeat at the 2020 General Election before Corbyn can be got rid of without tearing the party in two.
We need a credible opposition
It has been suggested that modernisers within the Labour Party might break off to form their own party in response to Labour’s steady drift away from power.
In the event of Labour splitting, Britain would find itself without a credible opposition party for the foreseeable future. That would be bad news for our democracy, which depends on there being a good opposition.
In an article for ConservativeHome, Conservative MEP and Daniel Hannan explains why that is:
With no one to keep us [the Conservatives] on our toes, we’d become factional, complacent and, in time, sleazy.
And what of that chunk of the electorate who believe in what Labour used to stand for? Without a respectable party to represent them, will they give up on politics, or switch to a less respectable party?
So here’s hoping that Labour can rid itself of Corbyn (without splitting the party) and replace him with someone who wants to lead the country rather than lead a protest movement.
Corbyn’s replacement will have to succeed where Corbyn has failed, by offering firm leadership, uniting the party, talking about the issues which affect voters the most, and avoiding saying things which could be understood as being sympathetic to Britain’s enemies.