Voters in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central are braving the might of Storm Doris to come out and vote today in two crunch by-elections. As polling day enters its final few hours, I’ve been looking online at how the parties will treat the possible results.
Labour is fighting to cling on two seats in what have been traditional heartlands. It shouldn’t be remarkable if that happens, but the party has lowered expectations about how it may do in the hope of making it seem so. Jeremy Corbyn’s critics will be keeping an eye out on how Labour’s majority holds up in such a scenario to see what damage his leadership may have had.
Losing both would inevitably precipitate a leadership challenge. The Tories may hope Labour clings onto Stoke then, so that Mr Corbyn can be embarrassed, but remain in place as leader. They have their hearts set on taking Copeland off Labour by trying to highlight Mr Corbyn’s anti-nuclear stance to voters there. It will be quite a coup if they manage it, as it will be a be the first time the Government had won a seat off the official opposition since the Tories took Mitcham and Morden in 1982.
Ukip’s fortunes rest on what happens in Stoke. If Paul Nuttall wins, the party will enjoy a new moment of glory as it celebrates its new MP and its first seizure of a Labour seat. If he doesn’t, his allies will be tempted to blame it on Labour’s “smear campaign” over Hillsborough. That won’t persuade everyone, as Nigel Farage told Ukip’s spring conference that winning Stoke was “fundamental” to the party’s future. If Mr Nuttall can’t deliver, some Faragistas will be sharpening their knives.
The results will be not be known until much later, likely between 3 and 4am. We’ll have them, as well as all the analysis, on our website tomorrow. Every party will hope to have something to boast about. If not, their leaders can expect to have pretty gloomy weekends.
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