The people of Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent have spoken, and the parties have a lot to mull over the weekend. Labour finds itself under immediate pressure following the loss of Copeland to the Conservatives’ Trudy Harrison. Jeremy Corbyn has had to dig in, insisting he won’t stand down after what his MPs called a “historic and catastrophic defeat”. Allies seem to be blaming the defeat in Copeland on Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, with John McDonnell saying: “We can’t have a circumstance again where a week before the by-election a former leader of our party attacks the party itself.” Tom Harris is surprised by the refusal “to view reality without the red flag-tinted glasses”. “It’s bizarre and unprecedented – very 2016. And the Conservative Party is very grateful for that”.
Labour can console itself with the fact that it repelled Paul Nuttall in Stoke-on-Trent Central, even if it clung onto the seat half the majority it had at the last general election. The Ukip leader tried to put a brave face on defeat, insisting that the party was “not going anywhere”, but the recriminations are already flying. Nigel Farage told Sky that the party “ could have been clearer on immigration”, while his allies lay the blame on Mr Nuttall’s advisers. “At times, I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on,” one told me.
The Conservatives are the only ones to have the wind in their sails. Michael Fabricant has pondered online as to whether the Tories may end up doing to Labour in the north of England what the SNP did to them in Scotland. Election analyst Martin Baxter has explained why these results would set the Tories up for a three-figure majority if a general election was held tomorrow. The by-elections have confirmed the Tories are riding high, so Tim Stanley has looked at how they could make the most of that advantage. “When you say that the state is a manifestation of the will of the people, then the people will expect it to move mountains,” he writes. “For now, the Tories should emphasise that they are getting the boring necessities right.”
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