Copeland and the Tale of two By-elections
Yesterday was an interesting political outcome in the UK. Labour lost in Copeland to the Tories but won in Stoke-on-Trent against UKIP. This mixed picture offers an interesting take of the direction of politics in the UK. Where is politics moving towards in the next few years in Britain and what of the parties?
Firstly, the result is devastating for UKIP, after failing to establish itself in a Labour stronghold, they will be looking at a campaign botched by Paul Nuttall’s parachuting into Stoke-on-Trent as large factor of failure. Labour put up a strong fight in Stoke-on-Trent another reason for UKIP’s defeat. Wider questions emerge; is UKIP really the largest threat to Labour in a post-Brexit Britain?
This is a poor showing for Labour too. Labour held on to a seat from the UKIP party but lost to its main rivals The Tories. This mixed picture of saving itself from the fringe Right but losing to the main Right wing party is not good for Labour at all. Reasons why Labour lost include the leader’s opposition to nuclear power, the unpatriotic stance of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn seen as toxic by many voters. Despite the NHS trust in Copeland constituency in such a bad state, Labour lost. That must sink in.
The obvious benefactor of all this is of course The Tories. Having defeated Labour in its heartland and seen off its main Right-wing rival, The Tories will surely be popping off the corks tonight. If they could defeat Labour here, they will win in many seats across the North of England singling the defeat of Labour for at least 25 years. It shows even in a place where the NHS is struggling, they will win. Perhaps The Tories should even advocate the introduction of private company contracts over all hospitals and all Primary Care trusts, since they know they can win? Perhaps completely abolish the NHS once and for all?
What can we deduce from the two by-elections? The political landscape has shifted not to a multi-party place by a 1.5 party system, with guaranteed Tory dominance for 25 years. Labour is a spent political force but with nothing to challenge The Tories, its good game for democracy. This is because of First Past the Post electoral system means that new-comers find it near impossible to win. The SNP did well because its supporters were concentrated in one area, namely Scotland. Elsewhere, competitors like UKIP are not a threat because the electoral system boosts support for the larger parties. In fact, the more divided the electorate, the easier for The Tories to win because the fewer voters they need to win an election. This is bad news for democracy as one of the main ways of challenging a government is being able to vote them out of office. If that is not possible, then people resent politics and may look for extreme solutions to the issue. Ultimately, the by-election results are arguments for electoral reform.