As the 23rd February looms upon us, the Labour Party faces a make or break situation as a defeat in the two impending by-elections may make Jeremy Corbyn’s position as party leader no longer viable. Losing even one by-election would inevitably cause further friction within the party and result in an almost heavy defeat in the next General Election.
Generally speaking, the by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central should not even be considered as make or break situations as they have previously been regarded as Labour strongholds. Since its inception as a constituency in 1983, Copeland in Cumbria has been a safe Labour seat with Labour consistently holding above 40% of the vote share. In the last General Election the Labour majority was reduced and the then MP of Copeland Jamie Reed was able to hold onto his seat with 2,564 votes. Reed’s resignation has now put his party in jeopardy as not only are Labour performing atrociously in public polling but the loss of a northern seat would be catastrophic to the current party regime.
Futhermore, the by-election in Stoke-on-Trent Central is a key battleground which Labour cannot and must not lose. Losing this by-election in particular would be catastrophic due to the fact that this has been a Labour stronghold since it was created in 1950. Those who remember the 1997 General Election will recall that Stoke-on-Trent Central was held with a majority of 19,924 votes. But the loss in faith of the Labour Party has resulted in a slow decline of support and has caused Labour to now hold a majority of only 5,179 votes which UKIP will be looking to exploit.
In the EU Referendum, Stoke-on-Trent voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union by a margin of 45,536 votes translating into 69.4% of the vote. The EU referendum was spear headed by both factions of the Conservative Party and UKIP a like. In recent times UKIP has managed to gain a foothold in Stoke; first fielding a candidate in the 2005 General Election and gaining just 914 votes. However fast forward 10 years and UKIP were the runners up in the constituency at the 2015 General Election with 7,041 votes. To add insult to injury the new leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall, will be contesting the vacant seat looking to become the second UKIP Member of Parliament.
It is imperative that Labour keeps their safe seats as this will hold the party together and stop it imploding on itself. Failure to do so, will result in a possible Conservative gain in Copeland and a UKIP gain in Stoke-on-Trent Central. If Labour can be defeated in it’s homeland, this will only encourage the Government to call for an early General Election in the hope that Labour will be wiped out as a credible oppostion. That is why the 23rd February 2017 is a key date in the history of the Labour Party. The loss of Copeland and Stoke will almost certaintly result in another coup occuring or the resignation of Corbyn. It really is make or break.
Labour Candidates: Gillian Troughton (Copeland), Gareth Snell (Stoke-on-Trent Central)