Tories take historic win over Labour in Copeland

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The Conservatives have won the Copeland by-election, beating Labour in an area it represented for more than 80 years.

Trudy Harrison won with 13,748 votes to Labour’s Gillian Troughton’s 11,601.

Mrs Harrison hailed the victory – the first by-election gain by a governing party since 1982 – as “a truly historic event”.

Labour’s Gareth Snell held Stoke-on-Trent Central with 7,853 votes, seeing off a challenge from UKIP leader Paul Nuttall who got 5,233.

 

Labour had held both seats since their creation but was forced to defend them when two former frontbenchers, Tristram Hunt and Jamie Reed, resigned as MPs.

Copeland, created in 1983, and its predecessor constituency Whitehaven have returned Labour MPs since 1935.

Mrs Harrison, who had been joined by Prime Minister Theresa May on the campaign trail, got 44.3% of the vote, increasing the Conservatives’ vote share by more than 8%. She overturned a Labour majority of more than 2,564 to take the seat by 2,147 votes – a swing of more than 6%.

Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said the Copeland result was the best by-election performance by a governing party in terms of the increase in its share of the vote since January 1966.

In her victory speech, Mrs Harrison said: “It’s been very clear talking to people throughout this campaign that [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t represent them.

“They want a party which is on the side of ordinary working people, which will respect the way we voted in the referendum and which will build a country which represents everyone. That’s why they voted for me tonight.”

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said the result was an extraordinary achievement for a governing party after seven years of austerity and would strengthen the prime minister’s grip on British politics.

Mr Corbyn said Labour’s “message was not enough to win through in Copeland” but hailed victory in Stoke as a “decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division and dishonesty”.

He added: “Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”

In Stoke-on-Trent, UKIP had hoped to capitalise on voters’ leanings towards Brexit – the area voted strongly to leave the EU in June.

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