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 Conservatives won the Mitcham and Morden by-election of 1982. It’s an especially hard blow for Labour because the party had held Copeland for the last eight decades.
David Miliband has said that Labour is further from power than at any time in the last half a century. The party has succeeded in clinging on in the Stoke-On-Trent by-election. But in both by-elections, it has seen its share of the vote reduced from the 2015 General Election.
A result which will embolden the Conservatives
The result has been interpreted as a great victory for Theresa May. In an article for the Daily Mail, Peter Oborne likens May’s 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.”
Some Conservatives will now renew calls for a snap General Election in the belief that May would win convincingly. Such a victory would endow May with greater democratic legitimacy, thereby strengthening her negotiating hand in the forthcoming talks with the EU.