Yesterday we saw two by-elections go the way all the pundits (bar apparently David Dimbleby) expected. The Tories to win in Copeland and Labour to hold on in Stoke-on-Trent Central. This wasn’t exactly stunning news when I woke up this morning to see that they were indeed the results. The fact is that there were special circumstances in Copeland regarding nuclear power and Jeremy Corbyn that led to the seat always being a tough one to hold on to.
Corbyn was saved from humiliation by Paul Nuttall and his quite frankly shambolic campaign that took UKIP from odds on favourites at one point to realistically fighting for second place with the Tories who really didn’t even bother to campaign until late in the day when it became clear UKIP were all over the shop.
What I was surprised at however was waking up this morning and to see the word ‘Blairite’ coming up constantly on my twitter feed. Seemingly how people (and indeed some Labour MPs) are blaming the Copeland result on a backlash against the politics of Tony Blair. This is about as bewildering and off the mark as you can get. Yet they produce the stats that since 1997 the vote share in the seat has gone down consistently.
They might seem to forget that that was Labour’s high point where Blair was cruising and the party were competitive in seats where they had no business traditionally of being such. So of course the vote will have declined since because that is basic logic and maths, when a party is at their most popular they’ll get the most votes, when they are less popular they’ll get fewer votes. This is not rocket science folks, yet people are trotting out the mantra that it was Blair that cost them this seat (despite the party winning it with ease every time it came up whilst he was Labour leader.
Emily Thornberry said one of the big issues was all the fake news surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s position on nuclear power. This woman is just something else. Every time she comes on my radar it is because she is just sprouting a clear lie or is tweeting something divisive. I’m not exactly sure what Emily’s problem with in the reporting of Jeremy’s position on nuclear power but he very clearly detailed his opposition to new nuclear power stations in his leadership election campaign. He of course said in Copeland that he’s now for new energy stations but when you say something like that during an election campaign in a seat which is very pro-nuclear after a long history of being against it, who is going to actually believe him? Seemingly not the people of Copeland.
The Tories didn’t win Copeland because they were popular, they won it because the Labour voters weren’t inching to get out and vote. The area is still very Labouir leaning but if you have a leader who doesn’t chime in with your views then people are going to think twice about voting that way.
In Stoke it was a similar situation. In what should have been a stroll in the park, even up to two weeks out they were in a real dogfight. UKIP kept tripping over themselves from Paul Nuttall claiming to live in Stoke when he didn’t to his Hillsborough comments being found out. At this point those people who were sitting on the fence started to come off the fence and go back to their natural home. Nuttall was unelectable and is now probably unelectable in any seat. I thought those Hillsborough comments were problematic but not a death knell but they were. Things like that live long in the memory.
So yesterday wasn’t a terrible night for Jeremy Corbyn. Two seats he should win with ease demographically but one did shave very local issues where he was a serious problem. I saw some Corbyn supporters hail Stoke as the party’s Waterloo moment and a victory to saviour. If winning a seat they should never have even had an issue with is grounds for great celebration, then I think that says everything about where the Labour party are at the moment. No-one knows what they stand for and they have two core sets of voters – the metropolitan and the industrial – who want vastly different things. You can’t please one without upsetting the other. This is a problem that they have seemingly no answer to as yet.
One thing is clear though. Labour did not lose Copeland because of Tony Blair. Anyone who truly thinks that either knows naff all about politics or are so blinkered they don’t recognise reason anymore.
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