UK Labour Party Rocked by Historic Loss and Party Divisions Over Corbyn

The Conservatives have dealt Labour a humiliating blow after snatching Copeland in a historic by-election victory.

Theresa May was today heading for the Cumbria seat to celebrate the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the principal opposition since 1982.

Trudy Harrison was elected as the constituency's first Tory MP by 13,748 votes to 11,601 for Labour's Gillian Troughton on a turnout of 51%.

Gerard Coyne - the senior figure challenging Mr Corbyn's ally Len McCluskey for the top job at Unite - said the defeat represented a "meltdown".

"What we've seen from this victory is this truly is a government that's working for everyone and every part of the country - and that's the message that we bring here to Copeland and we'll take across the country".

Allies partly blamed the result on accusations that Mr Corbyn opposes the nuclear power industry, which employs thousands in Copeland, and on Tony Blair's criticism of the Labour leadership last week.

Gareth Snell saw Labour's majority shrink in Stoke (Joe Giddens/PA)Labour's share of the vote in Stoke-on-Trent Central has nearly halved since 1997.

The European Parliament grand coalition between the right-wing European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialist and Democrats (S&D group) is over and can not be re-established, said its chief, Gianni Pittella, today (13 December) during a news conference in Strasbourg.

One close ally, asked if Mr Corbyn saw himself as a potential prime minister, recently told the Financial Times: "I think he would rather be growing tomatoes".

Labour supporting Daily Mirror newspaper was also scathing towards the result in Copeland.

Although he admitted that some of the problems that Labour has in working class communities didn't start under Mr Corbyn, he said that more needed to be done to address their concerns.

It follows a historic by-election as Trudy Harrison, for the Conservatives, won the seat.

"We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here".

"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", he said.

"Let us not be in any doubt about what these results represent", she said.

Another Labour MP said of Corbyn: "He's a liability, I definitely wouldn't have him campaign in my constituency".

"They say half a loaf may be better than none but in Labour's case, I'm not so sure", said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. They also dismissed the idea that the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election win balanced out the Copeland defeat, highlighting the swing away from Labour in both seats.

However, there have been signs of disillusionment among the grassroots in recent weeks, particularly after the Labour party leadership agreed to back the government's triggering of Article 50.

James was talking to Rob in Hayes, who was discussing Labour's disappointing by-election performance in Copeland. Both are typical of Labour seats in the North and Midlands which were once described as "solid", but now appear shaky at best.

  • Aubrey Nash