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)
Firstly, I would like to congratulate Jeremy and his team for this iconic victory. The votes cast were from a wider electorate compared to the 2015 leadership election, further cementing Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader of the Labour Party. I believe that those who opposed Corbyn, should now come together and unite over policy.
I have campaigned for Corbyn over the past couple of months on social media and in person with Labour members and members of the general public alike. The feedback which I have usually received is that ‘Corbyn is a nice man’ or that ‘He seems genuine and honest’. Promising as those annecdotal evidences maybe those very same people go onto say ‘He isn’t a leader’, ‘Corbyn is hard left’ and that ‘We will lose the next general election’. However these views are shaped by the information in which we recieve. If we are constantly given the viewpoint that Mr Corbyn is incompetent then we will eventually believe that. It is therefore imperative that there is a grassroots presence which is able to combat against the stereotypes which are thrown against him.
Now it is clear to us that Corbyn is the leader of the party, those on both sides of the party should put differences together and let bygones be bygones. When this coup was first orchestrated, I like many others felt that those MPs who didn’t have the best interests of the party at heart should be deselected. Now that Corbyn is the leader of the party once more, upon further revision I believe it will be devisive to deselect those who opposed Corbyn. I feel it will play into the hands of the mainstream media who have shown a clear anti-corbyn bias. Nonetheless, if any MPs are found to be sabotaging the leadership or continue to dissent and refuse to come together then I think then and only then should deselection be considered.
It is clear to see that despite being continuously discredited by the press, Corbyn’s policies seem to be getting through to the members. One must take into account that the members are not the general electorate, however they are a reflection of the electorate as members are from all parts of the country and are from different socio-economic backgrounds. Corbyn’s mandate has increased from a 59.5% to 61.8%. His anti-austerity agenda has actually increased labour party membership as there are now over half a million members. In fact when the coup was launched after the EU referendum, 130000 new members joined up in response. All the coup has achieved, is to empower Corbyn further and give him much more of a platform to get his views across.
After the result of the EU referendum, the insight of the Chilcot inquiry and the debacle that has been the Labour leadership election, I think the Labour Party now has to decide who the real enemy is. Is it the members, the MPs or the Conservatives? I for one would finally like to attack Conservative Party policy as a united front and would welcome back those who had previously resigned from the Shadow Cabinet. If history has told us anything, a united Labour Party can win elections, a divided Labour Party will be crushed.
The goal is to win the next General Election, and have Corbyn at Number 10.
The fate of our nation’s future was to be decided on the 23rd June 2016 but as of yet we have no clear indication as to what is going to happen post Brexit. The Conservatives are leaderless and the parliamentary Labour party seem to be at odds with their leader despite what seems to be staunch grassroots support in favour of him. But what angers me most is the idea of ‘Project Fear’ and how it was almost oxymoronic in its usage, as those who spoke about fear mongering were perpetuating it nearly every time they spoke.
Many Leave campaigners threw around the buzzwords of ‘Project Fear’, referring to the Remain campaigns talk that we as a nation would struggle in a post Brexit society. In fact what we can learn from this referendum is that there was a Project Fear. Project Fear was being sold to us on a daily basis in the form of the immigration debate. I myself am a descendant of immigrants. Immigrants who came in the 70s, who worked extremely hard, paid their taxes and contributed to our economy. I feel sick, that in modern day Britain, we dehumanised immigrants with just one cross on a ballot paper. Immigrants have given so much to British society, and this idea that they come here to take from us is fundamentally wrong. Firstly in order for our NHS to function we need the skills of immigrant health professionals, who are vital in providing health care to our population. Furthermore the immigrants to the UK are less likely to live in social housing and less likely to receive benefits than UK born workers.
I would like to make clear that I am no die hard supporter of the European Union. I ideologically oppose it due to the fact the EU’s Commission is unelected. The individuals who sit on the commission are chosen by their individual governments, it is these unelected officials who hold executive powers over the European Union. To add to this, these unelected officials draft legislation and mediate in the legislative process along with representing the Union in trade negotiations. The non-transparency involved with the commission, in addition to the fact that the union operates more and more like a government is why I ideologically oppose it as it is hindering democracy. Nevertheless I knew the consequences of a Brexit vote and what it would do to our economy in the long run, as well as what would happen to our currency.
With Nigel Farage deciding to resign as UKIP leader along with Boris Johnson who fronted the official Leave campaign deciding not to run for Conservative leadership; we have to ask ourselves are these the people who the British public decided to follow? The truth is that there are major implications of leaving the EU and it is disgraceful that the politicians who led the campaign to leave have bailed and decided they have done their bit. One must question, what doing their bit entails. With the likelihood of inflation soon to rise, those who really are at the bottom of society will be hit hardest as the price of living goes up but wages will be stagnant. Austerity caused by our current Conservative government is what effects everyday lives not EU membership. It was the Tory government who introduced the Bedroom Tax, who scrapped EMA, who abolished Child Trust Funds, who abolished Sure Start Maternity Grants, who increased work hours for couples with children in order for the couples to qualify for Working Tax Credit, who introduced cuts to our police force and it was our current government who increased tuition. We were told by the Brexiteers that we could leave the EU and still access the common market. It has been confirmed to us, post referendum that in order to access the common market we have to respect the basic European freedoms of people, goods, services and capital.
I honestly believe that had immigration not been thrown in and made to be the central issue of this debate then we would have seen an easy Remain victory. Patriotism was to be associated with voting to leave the EU. The immense nationalism took over as citizens who would otherwise probably not vote or participate in general elections came out in the masses and voted to take their country back. This was backed by the increase in voter turnout from the last general election just one year ago. I have always thought that patriotism can be a dangerous word, so dangerous that it can evoke blind allegiance to a cause, no questions asked. The real Project Fear was blind allegiance to anti-immigration. Immigrants aren’t the problem, austerity is.
With the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith resigning, what does this mean for the Conservative Party?
As there is increasing pressure on the government there is reported in fighting between different factions of the party, with rumours that David Cameron is blaming George Osbourne for this row over the disability cuts.
As the opinion polls show Labour neck and neck with the Tories, one can only assume that this is the beginning of an end game for the Conservatives. Although there is much time till the 2020 General Elections so things can easily change; a week is a long time in politics, let alone 4 years.