This article titled “Stoke and Copeland byelections: Unison boss suggests Corbyn partly to blame for historic defeat – Politics live” was written by Haroon Siddique (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 24th February 2017 16.57 UTC
Thanks for following the blog today and for all your comments. Here is a summary of the day’s events:
- Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has come under scrutiny once again after Labour lost the byelection for Copeland – a seat it had held since 1935 – to the Tories. The Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, said the blame did not lie solely with Corbyn but “he must take responsibility for what happens next”.
- Senior Labour backbencher David Winnick said Corbyn was an “obstacle” to victory and should consider his position. The leader of Usdaw described the result as “a wake-up call” and the MP for neighbouring Barrow-in-Furness warned the party was heading for disaster at the general election.
- Corbyn insisted his leadership did not contribute to the byelection defeat and that he would not be stepping down from his position. “We will continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care and on housing,” he said. He also highlighted Labour’s victory in Stoke.
- Theresa May claimed the Conservative victory in Copeland showed her party is governing for every part of the country. The prime minister signalled an intention to challenge Labour in its northern heartlands.
- The former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, lamented the party’s performance in Stoke where it failed to dislodge Labour but the current leader Paul Nuttall dismissed suggestions he would quit. Farage said the party “could have been clearer on immigration” and others also questioned Nuttall’s performance. But asked if he would stand down, Nuttall said he was “not going anywhere”.
Despite the historic nature of the Conservative win in Copeland, on the Prospect website, Jay Welwes argues it was a pyrrhic victory for the prime minister:
It looks like victory, and in the short-term, it is. But in the longer-term, its effects work against [Theresa] May, not for her. Because the more powerful she becomes domestically, the more confident the pro-Brexit Tory core becomes and the further it drives them into their error of mistaking domestic prowess for foreign influence.
The by-election victory will only boost the expectations of the eurosceptics, who will see in their domination of British politics license to take a tough negotiating line with the EU. But what they are really doing is setting themselves and their prime minister up for a catastrophic fall. Copeland will, in its way, boost the Conservative Brexiters’ confidence. The “mandate creep” towards hard Brexit continues. And the higher the expectations of the Brexit brigade, the more painful will be their eventual and inevitable landing.
Some more interesting byelection statistics:
Union boss calls Copeland result ‘wake up call’
John Hannett, the general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), has called the the result a “wake up call” and warned the Labour party not to “pass the buck”. Usdaw is a critical union affiliated to the Labour party but one of the few that did not back Corbyn in the leadership campaign.
Hannett told the Guardian:
We can’t dismiss these by-elections or blame other people – whether previous politicians or the media. All of that is a distraction from why isn’t the current Labour party connecting with voters.
Talking about issues that affected his members such as terms and conditions and Sunday trading rules, he said people needed a Labour government.
“Usdaw members whether in shops or factories are desperate for a credible opposition,” he added, arguing that while he applauded the scale and size of Labour’s membership, the party had to reach out further.
You can’t win an election purely from an internal base – you have to have vision and reach to people not yet convinced. Yesterday’s result is a further wake up call that there is a need for an urgent debate within the party, from the leader and across the piste, as to why we do not seem to be connecting with the wider public…
“We need to stop the blame game,” added Hannett, who said it wasn’t in the interest of the party to point the finger of blame at the media or Tony Blair.
We determine our strategy but it is difficult to get an understanding of your policy when – at the moment – the public is not listening.
Jeremy Corbyn was irked by members of the media shouting competing questions at him during his brief appearance in Stoke this afternoon.
Gareth Snell, Labour’s winning candidate in Stoke, also chimed in.
Moving away from the byelections for a moment, the Tory MP who told critics of the government’s policy on child refugees that they should stop being “so sentimental” has hit back at the media, claiming her comments were “misconstrued”.
Pauline Latham took to Twitter to protest at the Guardian and other media’s reports on her remarks and has now issued a statement saying it is wrong to suggest she does not care about unaccompanied children trying to get into the UK.
She wrote in a circular to voters who had contacted her to complain:
Almost immediately after my speech articles went out in the press which only quoted the phrase ‘stop being so sentimental’ and implied that I had no concern at all refugees, which is completely untrue.
She had been speaking in the House of Commons on an emergency debate on the government’s decision to end the so-called Dubs scheme which gave lone children the chance of legally coming to the UK instead of risking their death on the back of a lorry.
I care a great deal about refugees and the appalling plight they face. I have visited two Jordanian refugee camps and one in Turkey and have spoken to refugee children. I did that out of concern for them, not a lack of it. Indeed I was at the speech in the first place because I care about their plight, and want to consider the best way to help them.
Latham did not offer further comment on remarks that if refugees were living in “rat-infested” shelters in Greece, that was Greece’s problem.
Baroness Smith, the shadow leader of the House of Lords and a former Labour MP, has urged Jeremy Corbyn to think “long and hard” about what she called the devastating defeat in Copeland.
“I think all of us, across the shadow cabinet, individually and collectively, have got to look long and hard at what people in Copeland have told us …
“Was this people didn’t want to hear what Jeremy wanted to say to them? Was that the reason? Or are there wider, more deeper reasons? I don’t think we should rush to conclusions on that …
“I can’t believe for one moment he draws any comfort from that result and he will be clearly be thinking long and hard about it.”
Channel 4 News’s Michael Crick says Corbyn refused to answer whether he still wants a general election. The Labour leader ignored all questions from reporters.
Jeremy Corbyn has made an appearance in Stoke. He said the result was result was “very disappointing” but made clear he was determined to carry on.
I was elected to lead this party. I am proud to lead this party. We will continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care, on housing.
He told cheering supporters that Labour was working for “an economy that is based on investment, based on good jobs, based on growth, based on opportunities for everybody in our society”.
“Ukip can’t offer that, the Tories can’t offer that. We can, we will, and we will win,” said the Labour leader, who left without taking questions from reporters.
One more analysis piece to add to that list is Ian Dunt on politics.co.uk who paints a depressing picture of the opposition:
So what happens now? The so-called Labour moderates have not just been silenced by the Owen Smith contest. They are also petrified by Brexit and the witch hunt against anyone who tries to ‘thwart the will of the people’. Theresa May’s steely gaze in the Lords this week, as peers debated amendments to the Article 50 bill, looks upon MPs as well, daring them to stand up and oppose her plans and be branded traitors to the country by her cabal of rabid newspaper supporters and parliamentarians. The only thing that unites the right and left of the Labour party is terror over Brexit and Brexit is the only political subject which matters.
There’s just not much going on. Corbyn offers no hope. His opponents offer no hope. Labour does not appear prepared to split or to select a new leader. Instead it is just slumped on the floor, occasionally twitching, although even that sometimes seems too much for it now. The fact it can even win a by-election in Stoke is actually impressive. It shows the resilience of the Labour brand despite the utter poverty of those who represent it in parliament.
Here is a round-up of some the most interesting analysis of last night’s results.
The scrutiny is understandably on Labour and its leadership but Anthony Wells on UK polling report notes that Ukip is also faced with some tough questions after its disappointing performance in Stoke Central:
It does perhaps give us a idea of the limits to the Ukip threat to Labour. Ukip were perceived as the main challengers from the beginning and it was a promising seat for them: a somewhat neglected working class Labour seat that voted strongly for Brexit, but with a Labour candidate who was remain. They seem to have thrown all they could at it, but with very little success. Again, we can’t be certain why – Paul Nuttall obviously had a difficult campaign and anecdotally Ukip’s ground game was poor, but there are also wider questions about Ukip’s viability now Brexit has been adopted by the Conservatives and without Farage at their helm.
While Wells is one of many to suggest the issue of nuclear power was key to Labour’s defeat in Copeland, Paul Mason, on Medium, as is his wont, has a different interpretation. He writes:
People are voting Tory in the full knowledge that the NHS is collapsing, being privatised, that refugee children are being left molested at Calais and that a bunch of Tory incompetents are in charge – because they want Brexit.
Brexit, not nuclear power, is the thing blinding a large section of the English and Welsh electorate at present and that will not change until the negotiations go catastrophically wrong, and the economic disaster unfolds Everybody on the progressive side of British politics needs to understand this will take some time.
In the Independent, John Rentoul says that the Copeland defeat spells the end of Jeremy Corbyn but adds:
Of course, Labour’s problems are deeper than Corbyn’s leadership. Brexit would have divided the party even – perhaps especially – if it had been led by someone who sincerely opposed it. But it must now be obvious to the 313,000 party members and supporters who re-elected Corbyn just five months ago that his leadership is unsustainable. What is less obvious is the answer to the question that got Corbyn to the leadership in the first place: who would be a better choice?
On Labour List, Richard Angell is firmly of the opinion that it was the antipathy of Corbyn and his close allies towards the nuclear power industry that cost the party in Copleland:
Labour woke up to the news that voters in Copeland felt it more important to send a signal to Labour its leadership – and its plans for their jobs, were it ever to get into power – than hit a Tory government on the nose for actually closing their maternity unit and urgent care centre while the campaign was running …
[Shadow chancellor John] McDonnell and a small number of shadow cabinet members are the only ones keeping Corbyn in office. It is time to accept his rumoured wish to resign. Failing that they condemn the Labour party to the same fate as the hard-left’s leadership of the party – irrecoverable decline.
It never rains, it pours…
“Labour will never come back again here.” That is the common portentous view among lunchtime drinkers in the Mirehouse Labour Social Club, the hub of life on Whitehaven’s biggest estate.
Savouring a cheap pint the day after the Conservative party ended Labour’s eight decade rule in Copeland, the lifetime Labour voters expressed antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn and deep disillusionment about politics in general.
“A lot of people don’t like Corbyn,” said one downcast voter. “He’s a lunatic. If they want to keep the nuclear industry, he’ll shut it down. If they want to keep the hospital, he’ll shut it down. It’s either his way or no way.”
“This week I’ve spoken to a lot of people, lifelong Labour voters who I’ve known for a very long time, who voted Conservative because they want Jeremy Corbyn out,” said Mike Starkey, the independent mayor of Copeland.
Starkey said he believed the Labour revolt would claim further scalps in the party’s heartlands if Corbyn remains in charge.
He predicted that Sue Hayman, the well-respected Labour MP for neighbouring Workington, would be next to lose her seat without change at the top. “There’s a consensus that if Jeremy Corbyn leads them into a general election it will be catastrophic,” he said on Friday.
These are from the Independent’s John Rentoul.
That is all from me for today. My colleague Haroon Siddique is taking over the blog now.
In the comments refitman asked this.
You’re right. It isn’s as simple as it used to be, because the Fixed-term Parliaments Act stops a prime minister just announcing one. But there is an over-ride provided two-thirds of MPs vote for one (a rare example in statute of a simple majority in the Commons not being sufficient) and Jeremy Corbyn is on record as saying Labour would vote for an early election. So, on this, Theresa May has a two-thirds majority.
May could also repeal the FTPA with a simple majority in the Commons, although getting that through the Lords would be more tricky.
On the Daily Politics earlier Ian Lavery, who is Labour’s joint elections coordinator along with Andrew Gwynne, criticised people who were using the Copeland result to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
That’s being spewed out onto the media this morning. The attack, whether it is Stoke or Copeland, is being solely focused on why everybody should get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most popular politicians in the country at this moment in time.
The issues in Copeland weren’t about Jeremy Corbyn. The issues in Copeland were about jobs and about the economy. People were worried about those.
Theo Bertram, a former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has written an interesting blog looking at Labour’s problem in Copeland. He goes into detail about how the party has been losing support amongst skilled working-class (C2) and semi-skilled and unskilled workers (DEs).
Here are three key charts from his blog. This shows how Labour’s working class support has declined over the last 40 years.
This shows how the Conservatives are currently ahead with C2, even though in the past Labour has had a lead amongst this group.
And this shows how Labour has almost lost its lead amongst DEs.
Bertram says working class voters don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.
Working class voters looked at Corbyn and made up their minds in the first two months. On the left, in September 2015, 32% of C2DEs had no opinion on whether Corbyn was doing a good or bad job. Only 30% thought he was doing a bad job. By November 2015, only 14% didn’t know. 63% thought he was doing a bad job.
But he says they do like Theresa May.
David Cameron put off working class voters, Theresa May does not.
In April 2016, Cameron had a net satisfaction rating among working class voters of minus 35%. 62% of them thought he was doing a bad job (nearly as many as Corbyn).
In July 2016, in her first month as Prime Minister, Theresa May’s net satisfaction rating among working class voters was +16%.
So while Labour flat-lined under Corbyn, the Tories changed their leader and their working class approval leaped by 51 points.
Worse still for Labour, whereas working class voters liked Corbyn much lessafter two months, they like May more now than they did in July.
The former Labour mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, a longstanding ally of Jeremy Corbyn’s, has also claimed that what happened under New Labour led to the party losing in Copeland. Livingstone told Sky News:
If you look at the collapse in the vote, 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 and you hear it from so many ordinary people on the streets saying, ‘What did the last Labour government ever do for me?’
If we are to turn this round, Labour MPs have got to stop undermining Jeremy and focus on the economy.
A sernior Ukip figure has criticised the campaign fought by Paul Nuttall in Stoke, arguing he was poorly advised in seeking to tackle Labour on their own policies, rather than keeping the party’s reputation as a radical voice.
Bill Etheridge, one of Ukip MEPs for the West Midlands region, said he hope Nuttall would instead pursue a “Farage-ist approach” from now on, arguing that the Stoke Central result – which saw the Ukip leader come within 79 votes of being pushed into third place – had been a failure for the party. Etheridge said:
I’m very disappointed at the result, but extremely proud of the work the activists put in. I’m 100% supportive of Paul continuing as the leader, but I believe there is room for us to be more of a challenging, radical, rightwing party, with libertarian values at the forefront, which I think have got obscured of late.
Maybe some of Paul’s advisers have led him down a dead end on this. We are all going to back Paul, but hopefully, we’ll win the argument for the party to get back to its real roots, of challenging authority and a sort of Farage-ist approach to the future.Etheridge’s comments indicate the party remains still split between modernisers, keen to take on Labour on issues such as NHS spending, and more traditional elements, who prefer a robust approach on areas such as immigration and crime.
Etheridge’s comments indicate the party remains still split between modernisers, keen to take on Labour on issues such as NHS spending, and more traditional elements, who prefer a robust approach on areas such as immigration and crime.
Nuttall’s team in Stoke included Suzanne Evans, Ukip’s head of policy, Patrick O’Flynn, another MEP, and Lisa Duffy, a former leadership candidate, all of whom are on the wing of the party pushing for a more modern outlook.
But only three months after Nuttall was overwhelmingly elected as leader, replacing Diane James’s 18-day tenure, there is no thought that he could be challenged.
Another senior Ukip figure, who asked not to be named, said: “There’s no appetite for challenging Paul, not least as we’ve got no one else to replace him”.
Earlier the Labour MP John Woodcock criticised people blaming the last Labour government for the defeat in Copeland. (See 12.06pm.) At the time I said I had not seen anyone explicitly making that claim, but Woodcock may have been referring to these tweets from Ken Loach, the filmmaker and Corbyn supporter.
Unison chief Dave Prentis suggests Corbyn partly to blame for Copeland defeat
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, Britain’s biggest public sector union and a powerful force in Labour politics, has issued what sounds rather like an ultimatum to Jeremy Corbyn. In a statement he implied that Corbyn was partly to blame for the Copeland defeat (the blame “does not lie solely” with Corbyn) and he said the Labour leader must “take responsibility” for turning things around.
While it was pleasing to see Ukip put in its place, Stoke should never have been in doubt and the result in Copeland was disastrous.
The blame for these results does not lie solely with Jeremy Corbyn, but he must take responsibility for what happens next. Nurses, teaching assistants, care workers and ordinary people everywhere need a Labour government. Jeremy has to show he understands how to turn things around and deliver just that.
May says Copeland win shows government ‘working for every part of this country’
This is what Theresa May told Conservative activists in Copeland when she spoke to them a few minutes ago.
This is an astounding victory for the Conservative party, but also for the people of Copeland. Labour have held this seat since the 1930s. A party in government has not won a byelection in a seat held by the opposition for 35 years. And you know what people were saying about this election. Labour were saying, ‘We’re going to win it.’ Experts were saying Labour would increase their majority. But all of you, the volunteers who went out there day in and day out and campaigned, you have made sure that that did not happen, that this is truly a wonderful victory for the Conservative party, but also for the people of Copeland.
And what I think we’ve seen from this victory is that this truly is a government that is working for everyone and for every part of this country.
Theresa May is in Copeland, and she is speaking to Conservative activists now.
She says the experts expected Labour to win in this constituency. But the party has shown that it is truly working for everyone.
And the party had an excellent candidate, May says. She says Trudy Harrison is someone who rolls up her sleeves and gets things done.
It is a fantastic result and wonderful victory, she says.
Trudy Harrison says she is really looking forward to getting to Westminster and delivering for everyone.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, has used an interview with Sky to say that his party should have been clearer on immigration and that it needs to improve its election machine. These are from Sky’s Tamara Cohen.
Here is Marc Stears, a key adviser to Ed Miliband when Milband was Labour leader, on the Copeland result.
What voters in Copeland think of Corbyn
On Whitehaven marina, opinion among traditional Labour voters is united on one issue: Jeremy Corbyn.
Many commentators felt his perceived anti-nuclear stance would prove toxic in Copeland, where more than 10,000 jobs rely on the industry, but it appears that the feeling runs far deeper than that.
Christine Curtin, a 57-year-old housewife who described herself as a dyed-in-the-wool Labour voter, said Corbyn was alienating the party’s core vote.
“Just about everyone – Labour people – I’ve spoke to does not like him,” she said. “I don’t think he’s the right man for the job. He can’t do the job.
“I think it’s his personality, the Irish thing – it’s his history of engaging with what we see as terrorists. There’s a lot of things involved. He seems to be more extreme than a lot of us are around here.”
Curtin said she made a last-minute decision to vote Labour despite deep reservations about Corbyn, who she felt was only interested in Copeland “because he wants to shut the factory” – a reference to the Sellafield nuclear decommissioning site and the Labour leader’s perceived hostility to nuclear which hung over the byelection.
A passing cyclist, who did not want to be named, said he was a lifelong Labour voter and remained that way begrudgingly in Thursday’s byelection. He said he would take his vote elsewhere at the next election unless Corbyn was unseated.
“I’m quite disillusioned with the party,” he said. “I’m not a Jeremy Corbyn supporter and even after this result it confirmed deep down what I thought about the current state of the party. I don’t think I’ll ever vote Tory but it depends what happens with Labour, if they get their house in order and sort their policies out.”
Leonard Rogers and his wife, Joy, both 81, were Lib Dem voters but voted Conservative on Thursday. “Labour doesn’t enthuse anyone with confidence, does it?” said Leonard. “With him leader I certainly would not vote for Labour. The Conservatives seem to be the only viable alternative.”
Rogers, a retiree who swapped the southwest London for the west Cumbrian coast, said most of his friends here were Labour supporters. “We’ve got friends just down the road from us and they’ve historically voted Labour but this time they’ve voted Conservative. They felt it was the only viable party.”
Mary Mooney, 67, and her husband Geoff, 68, said most of their friends “were Labour voters” but many voted against the party in protest at the perceived decline of Whitehaven town centre, which was busy with half-term holidaymakers on Friday.
“I’m not surprised at the result because people needed change,” said Mary Mooney. “The town’s derelict. The harbour’s beautiful but go to the town and there’s nothing to keep visitors here. The [Labour-run] town council doesn’t do much. Something drastic needs to happen in Whitehaven.”
No 10 says May has ‘no plans’ for an early election
In Copeland Theresa May secured the biggest rise in the share of the vote for a governing party in a byelection since Labour at the Hull North byelection in 1966. (See 7.49am.) That result encouraged Harold Wilson to call an early election.
Asked at the Number 10 lobby briefing if Theresa May would do the same, the prime minister’s spokesman said:
The prime minister has set out the position very clearly on a general election. There are no plans for one.
Politics Live readers are smart enough to know that, in Whitehall, “no plans” for something does not mean that it will not happen, and quite often it means that there are plans, but that the politician involved just doesn’t want to admit it.
But in this case an open mind, rather than acute scepticism, is probably the best response. May has repeatedly ruled out an “early” election (without defining early), she is temperamentally not given to risk and surprise and she does not have a good excuse for calling one. The odds must be against one happening this year. But it would be surprising if someone in Number 10 hadn’t taken a look at the numbers. And, given some of the predictions about what a horror show Brexit may become by 2019, you can see why some might be arguing that May should get the election out of the way now.
The Labour MP John Woodcock, who has been a persistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn and whose Barrow and Furness seat is next to Copeland, has used Twitter to argue that the Blair/Brown governments cannot be blamed for Labour’s defeat last night.
I have not heard anyone explicitly claim this morning that the New Labour government was to blame for what happened to the Labour vote in Copeland, but Woodcock may have been referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that “the political establishment” have let these voters down. Corbyn posted this on Twitter last night.
Corbyn made a similar point in a post on Facebook last night. He said:
The political establishment has let down Copeland and Stoke, who have seen their industries gutted, living standards stagnate and hope for a better future for their children and grandchildren decline.
Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov has this response.
Paddy Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader who is campaigning for progressive parties to work together against the Tories, claims the Copeland result supports his argument.
And here is video footage of Jeremy Corbyn responding to the Chris Ship question. (See 11.23am.)
Corbyn’s Q&A is over.
Here is the full text of Chris Ship’s question, and Jeremy Corbyn’s answer. (See 11.03am.)
Ship: I want to ask you specifically about Copeland. Since you found out that you’d lost a seat to the governing party for the first time since the Falklands War, have you at any point this morning looked in the mirror and asked yourself this question: ‘Could the problem actually be me?’
Ship: Why not?
Corbyn: Thank you for your question.
Some in the audience applauded Corbyn’s answer.
Corbyn says Labour will be challenging the government’s great repeal bill.
It will be challenging it to ensure that employment and environmental protections are maintained.
Corbyn says there is a lot of anger amongst voters in Europe at the moment.
The challenge is to turn that into a positive force, he says.
He says the left has to develop an economic strategy about equality and opportunity.
Corbyn is now taking questions from the political attendees at the Labour event, not journalists. But one questioner said he had a point to make about the byelections. It reminded him of the first world war general who said the situation was catastrophic, but not serious, he said.
Corbyn says he does not think he is to blame for Labour’s defeat in Copeland
Q: [To ITV’s Chris Ship, on his last day in his job] Stoke was a Labour seat which you retained. Since you have found out that you have lost a seat to a governing party for the first time since the Falklands, have you at any point looked in the mirror this morning and thought you might be the problem?
No, says Corbyn.
And that’s it. He answers with just one word.
- Corbyn says he does not think he is to blame for Labour’s defeat in Copeland.
Corbyn’s speech is over.
He is now taking questions.
Q: Are you turning into Theresa May’s best friend in politics?
Corbyn says the media should not underestimate the significance of the victory in Stoke. Labour beat Ukip in a city that Ukip was calling its own. Many in the media thought Labour would lose.
But he is disappointed by the result in Copeland, he says.
He says Labour is determined to get the message across the Britain’s future depends on having a high-skilled economy.
Corbyn says today’s conference will allow European progressive parties to set out their goals for an alternative future for Europe.
Theresa May is more interested in looking across the Atlantic to President Trump, he says. But he says Labour wants to strengthen, not weaken, relations with countries in the EU.
Corbyn says he wants to applaud voters in Europe who have chosen hope over fear, like those most recently voting in the Austrian presidential elections.
He says he thinks the same thing will happen in the French presidential elections.
Corbyn says he also wants to talk to Labour’s sister parties at the conference today about further European cooperation.
Labour will not turn is back on Europe.
Labour remains strongly committed to bodies like the council of Europe, he says.
And he says the rights of EU nationals living in the UK must be guaranteed.
The rights of EU nationals living and working in Britain must be guaranteed now – just as the rights of UK nationals must be protected across the rest of the EU.
It is a scandal that our government is trying to use citizens of the EU, who have made their homes in Britain, as a bargaining chip …
I understand the fear in many communities since the Brexit vote. Many EU nationals feel isolated and believe they are no longer welcome in the country they have come to call home.
I want to send a clear message to all those people who have already given so much to British society: you are welcome here, Labour will fight for your rights, we will stand up to intolerance, and we will do everything we can to represent and defend you.
Corbyn says if the UK becomes a low-tax, low-regulation honeypot after Brexit, as Theresa May has threatened, the government will not be able to fund proper public services.
Corbyn says Labour wants the UK to continue to participate in the Erasmus programme (an EU student exchange scheme) after Brexit.
Corbyn says Labour would deliver key infrastructure projects, including a Crossrail for the north of England.
Corbyn says trade union voices must be listened to in the Brexit debate.
Many regions in the UK are dependent on structural funds.
Labour has demanded assurances from the government that they will continue to receive funding. The government has not given those assurances, he says. But Labour will be the voice for those regions.
Corbyn says that when Theresa May says no Brexit deal is better than a bad deal, we need to be clear that no deal is a bad deal.
Britain needs continued access to European markets, he says.
There must be no attempt to dilute workplace rights, he says.
Corbyn accuses Theresa May of “fake patriotic posturing”.
[The government has] wrapped Brexit up in fake patriotic posturing, waving the Union Jack while preparing to sell out our public services and consumer protections to US corporations, cheered on by the corporate media, who pile up their wealth in overseas tax havens while posing as national champions and fostering division both at home and abroad.
Let me be clear, those who actually love their country would never seek to divide it.
He says the Tories are heading for Brexit with a broken sat-nav system, telling them to turn right, right and right again.
We may need to listen to experts, he says. That is why he has called today’s meeting of European socialists to discuss Brexit.
Theresa May has dangled the threat of turning Britain into a bargain basement tax haven if the European Union doesn’t play ball.
Let’s be clear: slashing taxes still further for big business, and cutting essential regulation in jobs, the environment, consumer protection, will be a magnet for north American corporate giants – that’s not just a threat and a danger to the European Union, it’s a threat and a danger to the British people, effectively turning all of us into bargaining chips.
Far from taking back control, that would mean an assault on our public services, our standard of living and our quality of life.
This is not, absolutely not, what the majority of our people want. But it is the clearly stated agenda of senior members of the Conservative government, who made clear both during and since the referendum campaign that is exactly the fantasy free market never-never land they want out of Brexit.
Corbyn says Labour can shape Britain’s future. And it can stop a divisive, Tory Brexit. But to do that it must be united.
Our future should not be decided by a cabal of rightwing zealots, he says.
Jeremy Corbyn is speaking now. There is a live feed at the top of this blog.
He says Labour is determined to play a pro-active role in Europe in the future.
The referendum last year revealed sharp divides in Britain, he says. People are starting to view politics through the prism of leave or remain, he says.
He says that was clear in the byelections.
The Labour victory in Stoke was a decisive rejection of Ukip’s divisive politics, he says.
But Labour’s message was not enough in Copeland.
He says this is difficult for Labour. Most Labour MPs voted remain, but most Labour constituencies voted leave.
Labour could choose to just represent those who voted remain.
Or it could try to represent everyone, and choose a way forward. That is what is has chosen to do, he says.
The Labour MP Ian Lavery said leadership did not come up on the doorstep when he was in Copeland. “Honestly, Jeremy Corbyn did not come up when I was knocking on doors,” he said.
However, he said voters did claim that they couldn’t back a party that was divided. “Disunity is one of the major issues,” he said.
Lavery admitted that it was a hugely disappointing night in the Cumbrian seat, but argued it hadn’t been a safe bet.
Copeland was not a good result- if is a heartland we have had control of for many years but it is a marginal and has been since 1997. Since then it has been in decline. We need bold and imaginative policies.
Lavery argued that the two key issues in Copeland were the NHS but also the nuclear industry, with big concerns about jobs trumping other issues in the end.
Corbyn rules out resigning following Labour’s defeat in Copeland
Jeremy Corbyn recorded a clip for broadcasters before he started his speech. Referring to the Copeland result, he said:
Copeland is obviously very disappointing. I hoped we’d have won the election there. We didn’t …
When he was asked if he would resign in the light of the fact that Labour’s share of the vote has been falling in a series of byelections now, he ruled out the proposal. He replied:
I was elected to lead this party. I was elected to lead this party to oppose austerity, to oppose the redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction, which is what this government is doing. We will continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care, on housing.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech
Jeremy Corbyn is about to give a speech in London on the theme “Road to Brexit”.
On Twitter the academic Rob Ford says the Conservatives may have won in Copeland by squeezing the Ukip vote.
On the Today programme this morning Matthew Goodwin, who co-wrote Revolt on the Right, the most authoritative book on the rise of Ukip, with Rob Ford, expanded on the same point made by his co-author. Goodwin said:
Today some people have been saying the Ukip ballon has completely popped. We still have a second-placed radical right party in a Labour seat with 25% of the vote. That is a significant issue for all the main parties to think about.
But also, let’s assume Theresa May wins back half of the Ukip vote. Labour MPs today are cheering the demise of Ukip. What does that mean for Labour? It means that around 45 seats will go to the Conservatives pretty quickly at the next election quite easily, because you have Labour MPs on small majorities where Ukip has around 15/20% of the vote. So Theresa May’s strategy right now, I would suggest, is spot on.
Cbris Prosser, an academic who works on the British Election Study, has got an interesting take on the byelection results.
This chart helps to illustrate this point.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, has given an interview to Piers Morgan for a Piers Morgan’s Life Stories programme being broadcast on ITV this evening. In it Farage says he is living like a “virtual prisoner” and is “frightened” to leave his home because of the way the media has “demonised” Ukip.
Referring to Ukip members with extremist or racist views whose comments have been highlighted by the media, Farage says:
It is because of these irrelevant people, who held no position, they happened to join an organisation, and because of these irrelevant people being demonised by liberal media, I’ve had to live years, frankly, of being frightened of walking out into the street all because the media picked out these people. And because of these people, attempted to demonise me and give me a bad name.
And you’re surprised three years on, when I have to live like a virtual prisoner, that I’m not happy about it? Will I ever forgive the British media for what they’ve done to me? No.
The Labour MP David Winnick has urged Jeremy Corbyn to consider his position in the light of the party’s defeat in Copeland. He told the Press Association:
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. That it is an obstacle and it would be wrong not to recognise that.
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.
But Winnick said he was not in favour of a leadership challenge.
That would be quite useless. It would end in the same result as previously.
I accept that it is quite likely that when the general election comes it will be Corbyn as leader. One just has to accept that. But if I am asked if that is the best way for us to win an election I’m bound to say in all honesty the answer is no.
The Ukip deputy leader Peter Whittle told ITV this morning that it would be a mistake to write off Ukip on the basis of the loss in Stoke. He said:
When we win something in Ukip we are often called a flash in the pan. When we lose something – ‘Oh, well that’s the end of Ukip’ – nothing of the sort. Yes, last year we certainly did have a difficult time, but that’s in the past now.
Here are two articles from Guardian commentators on the byelections results.
John Harris says Labour is “racked by a deep, historic crisis that preceded the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn, but which his leadership seems to have immeasurably deepened”.
And Rafael Behr says that Labour’s problems pre-date Corbyn but that he was “chosen as the antidote to decline, not its amplifier”.
If he is in possession of an inspiring vision and an evangelical gift that can stir a mass movement to sweep Labour back to power, there really isn’t that much stopping him from deploying those gifts. The airwaves are available; so is the vast expanse of social media and any number of venues willing to host another rally. That was the plan when Corbyn sought ownership of the party. And now he owns it. So must he also own last night’s failure.
Richard Angell, director of Progress, the Blairite organisation within Labour, has put out a statement saying that the Copeland result is a disaster for the party and that it should trigger a rethink by the leadership. Angell said:
In normal times, Labour would be winning midterm byelections in Labour heartlands with increased majorities. Seats held in wipeout years like 2010 and 2015 should be stacking up huge majorities, especially seven years into a Tory government.
Yet both sustained swings against Labour that would decimate the parliamentary party at the next election and see the Tories with an increased majority.
The Tory gain in Copeland makes the message clear. A hard-left Momentum-led Labour party is more repugnant to the voters than a Tory government closing a local maternity unit and urgent care centre. It is a disaster and should make John McDonnell and Seumas Milne – who are keeping Jeremy Corbyn in office – rethink. They risk bringing the whole party down with this failed hard-left project.
Ukip might have to wait 20 years to win another byelection, says Ukip chairman
The Ukip chairman Paul Oakden was on the Today programme earlier. Here are the main points he made.
- Oakden said Ukip might have to wait another 20 years before it wins a seat at a byelection again. He said:
Something clearly didn’t fire yesterday in as much as the fact that we didn’t win. Politics is a long game. It took us 23-odd years to win a referendum to get Britain out of the European Union.
It may take that long for us to get a seat in Westminster via a byelection. But if that’s how long it takes then that’s what we will keep doing, because that’s what we are here for.
- He said that Paul Nuttall, the party leader and candidate in Stoke, had had a “difficult” campaign but enjoyed the full support of his party. Oakden said:
This party is absolutely behind Paul Nuttall as its leader. He is 12 weeks into his leadership. We are all going to support him moving forward. This is one step along a long road for our party.
He has had a difficult campaign. There is no doubt that he has been targeted by various unpleasant elements during the last four weeks.
I think it was incredibly courageous of him to put his head above the parapet and stand to be the candidate for our party in this election.
He did it to unify our party. I think by the evidence of the number of people who came up to support Paul during this campaign, that is what happened.
- Oakden said Labour won because it was better organised.
We weren’t able to get our campaign on the ground as effective as we would have wanted to yesterday. The Labour Party did. The Labour Party have an incredibly strong and efficient campaign machine. Ukip are relatively new on the political scene.
Prof John Curtice has written an article for the Guardian arguing that recent byelection results suggest that Labour is not paying enough attention to its supporters who voted remain.
Here is his article.
And here is an extract.
Labour’s share of the vote has now dropped in every single byelection since the Brexit referendum. From leafy Richmond to windswept Copeland the message has been the same : the party is struggling to hang on to the already diminished band of supporters who backed it in 2015.
The party’s problems were, of course, in evidence long before 23 June last year. But the vote to leave the EU has exacerbated them.
Labour seems to have decided in recent weeks that its first priority is to stave off the threat from Ukip to its traditional working-class vote, much of which supposedly voted to leave in the EU referendum.
But in so doing it seems to have forgotten (or not realised) that most of those who voted Labour in 2015 – including those living in Labour seats in the North and the Midlands – backed remain. The party is thus at greater risk of losing votes to the pro-remain Liberal Democrats than to pro-Brexit Ukip.
If you want more information on the research showing most Labour voters backed remain, Curtice wrote that up in more detail here.
Here is a graphic showing the Stoke results.
And here are the results for Copeland.
Q: On Twitter last night Jeremy Corbyn said Labour had to go further. What did he mean?
McDonnell says that means things like making sure the party selects local candidates to fight elections, as it did in Copeland.
And that’s it. The interview is over.
McDonnell says the party has to unite. It cannot have a situation where a former leader attacks the party the week before a byelection.
Q: So it is Tony Blair’s fault.
McDonnell says he hopes it does not happen again.
Q: The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror today says there are two words that explain Labour’s defeat: Jeremy Corbyn.
McDonnell says he could also quote a woman he saw interviewed on the news last night who said what she wanted from a leader was someone who is honest and decent. That is Jeremy Corbyn.
He says Corbyn has not considered standing down.
And he says the Tories should not take Copeland as a green light for going ahead with cuts.
Q: You feel the NHS is at risk. Corbyn raised this at PMQs. People are saying if he stays leader, the Tories are guaranteed to win the next election.
McDonnell says Corbyn has had to spend half his time fighting leadership elections.
The party wants unity, he says.
He says Labour has managed to defeat Ukip, “a stain on British politics”, in Stoke.
John McDonnnell’s Today interview
John McDonnell is being interviewed on Today now.
Q: Do you agree with John Woodcock that Copeland was a “disaster” for Labour. (See 8.13am.)
McDonnell says it was really disappointing.
The prime minister will come out today to argue that Copeland is not just a loss for Labour but a big win for the Conservatives; that the voters weren’t just sceptical of Jeremy Corbyn but positive about Theresa May’s party.
She will suggest that it shows her party’s message is connecting with ordinary voters. In Downing Street they see their strategy as two pronged, in which the firm line on Brexit is only one – necessary- but small part of the puzzle. They think it’s about trust and values.
And I think they’ll take a good look at Stoke. She did go there, not because they believe they can win it now, but because Stoke is the type of seat that they think could – possibly- be target in future. They look back at Thatcher and Blair and think the only way to win big majorities is to encroach on Labour territory with a centre ground stance.
The Labour MP John Woodcock, who represents Barrow and Furness, which is next to Copeland, and who is on the right of the party, told the Today programme that the defeat in the seat was a “disaster” for the party.
We should not try to insult people’s intelligence by suggesting it is anything other than that. This was a campaign where we had an absolutely solid NHS issue that really cut through on the doorstep, the future of the local maternity unit and A&E was very much on people’s minds. It was in many ways a classic byelection issue which could unite the community. But we failed to do so.
Asked about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, he said he thought it was counter-productive for MPs like him to keep challenging him. He said Corbyn would remain leader unless or until he decided to go. But Labour was not on course to win an election, he said.
Certainly the position we are in at the moment, we are not on course for victory. We are on course to a historic and catastrophic defeat and that will have very serious consequences for all of the communities that we represent.
McDonnell accuses Blair and Mandelson of causing disunity which he says helped Labour lose Copeland
In his interview earlier with ITV John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and key Corbyn ally, suggested that Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were partly to blame for Labour’s defeat in Copeland because of their attacks on Corbyn. He said:
What’s interesting is that the overwhelming number of members of the party, the majority of the party, are saying “unite”. And we can’t have a situation like we did last week when Tony Blair comes out and attacks his own party, Peter Mandelson as well. So we are saying to those people “unite” because people will then see the real Labour party campaigning. And we will win back places like Copeland.
McDonnell also said he did not think Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader would be under threat because of the defeat.
He accepted that voters in Copeland “weren’t convinced that the party supported the nuclear industry”. But he said this was an exceptional issue in the constituency, because of the imortance of Sellafied.
On the Today programme Prof John Curtice, the BBC’s main elections expert, said that since 1945 the government party has only taken a seat from the opposition in three byelections. One was at Mitcham and Morden in 1982, where Labour, which lost, had a smaller majority than in Copeland. The other two were Brighouse and Spenborough in 1960 and Sunderland South in 1953. Labour lost in both, but in both seats it was defending very small majorities.
In Copeland Labour was defending a bigger majority, of 6.5%, Curtice said.
The movement to the Conservatives, the increase in the Conservative vote of around 8.5 points, is the biggest increase enjoyed by the government in any byelection since 1966 when Harold Wilson managed to win the Hull North byelection which precipitated the 1966 general election. So this is very, very rare indeed. The general rule of byelections is that governments, even when popular in the polls, lose ground and oppositions, even if they are not doing that well, gain ground.
Labour now have to look at a set of results, not just the two last night in both of which they lost ground, but in every singe byelection held since the Brexit referendum on June 23 last year Labour’s vote has been down.
Curtice said that he accepted that there were special factors at play in Copeland, where the Sellafield nuclear processing plant is the most important local employer and Jeremy Corbyn’s previous opposition to nuclear power was held against him. But Curtice went on:
I suspect Jeremy Corbyn’s critics will argue than in many a voter’s mind his opposition to the nuclear power industry is also linked to his opposition to nuclear weapons, and actually this is symptomatic of a wider problem with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, in their view, [which] is that he holds certain attitudes and supports certain things which many a voter does not hold credible.
Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central byelection results in full
For the record, here are last night’s byelection results in full.
Copeland – Conservative gain from Labour
Trudy Harrison (C) 13,748 (44.25%, +8.46%)
Gillian Troughton (Lab) 11,601 (37.34%, -4.92%)
Rebecca Hanson (LD) 2,252 (7.25%, +3.80%)
Fiona Mills (UKIP) 2,025 (6.52%, -9.00%)
Michael Guest (Ind) 811 (2.61%)
Jack Lenox (Green) 515 (1.66%, -1.32%)
Roy Ivinson (Ind) 116 (0.37%)
C maj 2,147 (6.91%)
6.69% swing Lab to C
Electorate 60,602; Turnout 31,068 (51.27%, -12.53%)
Stoke-on-Trent Central – Labour hold
Gareth Snell (Lab) 7,853 (37.09%, -2.22%)
Paul Nuttall (Ukip) 5,233 (24.72%, +2.07%)
Jack Brereton (C) 5,154 (24.35%, +1.80%)
Zulfiqar Ali (LD) 2,083 (9.84%, +5.67%)
Adam Colclough (Green) 294 (1.39%, -2.22%)
Barbara Fielding (Ind) 137 (0.65%)
The Incredible Flying Brick (Loony) 127 (0.60%)
David Furness (BNP) 124 (0.59%)
Godfrey Davies (CPA) 109 (0.51%)
Mohammed Akram (Ind) 56 (0.26%)
Lab maj 2,620 (12.38%)
2.14% swing Lab to Ukip
Electorate 57,701; Turnout 21,170 (36.69%, -13.24%)
Corbyn’s allies blame disunity for historic defeat
We had two byelection results in the early hours this morning. One involved a Labour win in Stoke-on-Trent Central, and a significant setback for Ukip. And the other involved a remarkable and historic win for the Conservatives in Copeland, which saw Theresa May’s party gaining a seat that has been Labour-held for decade and the experts going back to 1945 or even earlier to find a comparable victory.
Here is our overnight story about the two results.
And here is our live blog from last night.
This morning John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, has been blaming party disunity (by implication, those MPs who challenged him for the leadership last summer) for what happened. He told ITV:
It’s not a matter of hanging on. Look, the situation is this. You learn lessons from these things. And one of the lessons you learn is people will not vote for a divided party. For the last 18 months, 20 months, we’ve been involved in two leadership elections. So, understandably, in the leadership election, those divisions will come out. I think the overwhelming number of the party, in both the parliamentary Labour party and in the constituencies, are saying we want a united party, let’s unite, and do you know in Stoke that’s what the party did, and we won. We’ve turned back the tide. And I think we’ve defeated quite a dangerous form of politics.
I will be covering the reaction in full this morning.
And at 10.30am we will be hearing from Jeremy Corbyn himself, because he is giving a speech on Brexit at 10.15am.
You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.
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