That’s all from me for tonight.

I will be blogging again from before breakfast, covering reaction to these byelection results and analysis.

Thanks for the comments.


Labour’s Cat Smith, the shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, has got a remarkably upbeat take on the Copeland result. This is from ITVs’ Daniel Hewitt.

Labour's Cat Smith just told me "to be 15-18 points behind in the polls & to push the Tories within 2000 votes is an incredible achievement"

— Daniel Hewitt (@DanielHewittITV) February 24, 2017

Trudy Harrison is speaking to Andrew Neil on the BBC’s This Week.

Q: Why did you win?

Because what I represent is what the people here need. And I know what that is because I have lived here all my life.

Q: When did you realise you might win?

It was over the last three weeks, says Harrison. She realised the area did not need one single solution. It needed a holistic plan. She hopes she can get ministers to deliver on it.

Q: What do you want?

Harrison says she wants the Moorside nuclear plan to go ahead.

Q: And will you save the hospital?

Harrison says she hopes so. She has already spoken to the health minister, Philip Dunne, about that.

The Press Association’s Ian Jones has some graphs that illustrate the results.

Here's a reminder of the result in Stoke-on-Trent at the last election.

— Ian Jones (@ian_a_jones) February 24, 2017

And here's the result of the by-election.

— Ian Jones (@ian_a_jones) February 24, 2017

How the share of the vote in Stoke-on-Trent Central changed from the general election to the by-election.

— Ian Jones (@ian_a_jones) February 24, 2017

A reminder of the result in Copeland in 2015.

— Ian Jones (@ian_a_jones) February 24, 2017

And how that changed at the by-election.

— Ian Jones (@ian_a_jones) February 24, 2017

The psephologist John Curtice told the BBC that the swing from Labour to the Conservatives in Copeland, around 7%, was bigger than current national polling suggests.

He also said that this was the biggest gain, in share of the vote, by a governing party in a byelection since the Hull North byelection in 1966. (That was the one that led to the construction of the Humber Bridge.) He said that that result prompted Harold Wilson to call a general election later that year.

Full Copeland election results, with share of vote

Here are the Copeland results in full, with percentage shares of the vote.

Trudy Harrison (C) 13,748 (44.25%, +8.46%)
Gillian Troughton (Lab) 11,601 (37.34%, -4.92%)
Rebecca Hanson (LD) 2,252 (7.25%, +3.80%)
Fiona Mills (UKIP) 2,025 (6.52%, -9.00%)
Michael Guest (Ind) 811 (2.61%)
Jack Lenox (Green) 515 (1.66%, -1.32%)
Roy Ivinson (Ind) 116 (0.37%)

C maj 2,147 (6.91%)
6.69% swing Lab to C

Electorate 60,602; Turnout 31,068 (51.27%, -12.53%)

This is from BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson in Copeland.

Labour candidate chased out of Copeland count without speaking while trying to ignore shouts of "do you blame Corbyn?"

— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) February 24, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has responded on Twitter to Labour’s loss in Copeland.

Labour's victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of UKIP's politics of division. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland

— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) February 24, 2017

Trudy Harrison's victory speech

Trudy Harrison says you have to go back more than a century to find a comparable election result.

She says it is clear that people in Copeland do not trust Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.

She says she will represent all people in the constituency. She knows that some people voted for her who had not voted Conservative before.

She will work to get things done for the constituency, she says.

Trudy Harrison and the Conservatives won with a majority of 2,147.

Conservatives win Copeland

Here are the Copeland results.

Trudy Harrison - Conservative - 13,748

Gillian Troughton - Labour - 11,601

Rebecca Hanson - Lib Dem - 2,252

Fiona Mills - Ukip - 2,025

Jack Lenox - Green - 515

Michael Guest - Independent - 811

Roy Ivinson - Independent - 116

Mobbed by cameras leaving the hall in a chaotic exit that saw the Ukip leader chased up and down the street searching for his car while escorted by police, Nuttall denied he would resign. “No, I’m only 12 weeks in, come on, give me a break,” he said cheerfully.

We’ve unified the party, we’ll go forward. Ukip’s moving forward and this will happen. This seat was 72 on our target list, there is a lot more to come from us. We are not going anywhere, we move on. There are other issues beyond Brexit. Lots more seats will happen where we will have more success in the future.

Nuttall denied it was the controversy over his Hillsborough comments or home address in Stoke that had cost him the seat. “I’ve apologised for that. We move forward,” he said.

Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader and unsuccessful Ukip candidate in Stoke, has been speaking to the media.

He said that he had cut Labour’s majority in half and unified the party like never before. “Ukip’s time will come,” he said.

He claimed that Stoke was only number 72 on Ukip list of target seats.

“We are not going away,” he said.

Asked if his admission that his website claim about losing close friends at Hillsborough being false had harmed his campaign, he said it had not come up on the doorstep.

And, asked if he would stand again for parliament, he said he was already a member of the European parliament. There would be other seats and other chances, he said. He said he would stand at the general election, but did not specify whether he would fight another byelection before then.

Here is the psephologist Matt Singh on the significance of the Stoke results.

1/ So, a clear win for Labour in #StokeCentral, against a 2% swing away from them (both to UKIP and the Conservatives)

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) February 24, 2017

2/ Nevertheless, an opposition party losing vote share in a by-election is never a good result, especially in its own seat

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) February 24, 2017

3/ UKIP gained ground, this was actually one of their better by-elections (though a rightwing Eurosceptic local Ind didn't stand this time)

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) February 24, 2017

4/ But given that their (and particularly Nuttall's) strategy has been to go after Labour in its heartlands, this will be disappointing

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) February 24, 2017

5/ Tories +2 in a seat they didn't target much until a late stage is very strong for a governing party. Though they didn't quite pip UKIP

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) February 24, 2017

6/ Lib Dems more than doubled their vote share, slightly better than expected earlier. This seat was about 66% Leave

— Matt Singh (@MattSingh_) February 24, 2017

Here is an extract from Gareth Snell’s victory speech.

In recent weeks Stoke-on-Trent has found itself in the national spotlight. Our city has been the focus of a media which all too often prefers to dwell on our problems instead of highlighting our achievements.

But over these last few weeks a city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that.

We are a city of innovators and educators, artists and entrepreneurs. We pioneered the first industrial revolution and I believe that we have the potential to lead the next one.

This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.

Nor will we be divided by race, or faith, or creed. We will move forward together to tackle the problems that we face and secure a brighter, more prosperous future for one another.

So for those who have come to Stoke-on-Trent to sow hatred and division, and to try to turn us away from our friends and neighbours, I have one message – you have failed.

Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear. We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.

The psephologist John Curtice has just been giving his take to the BBC’s This Week. He says pundits saw this contest as a two-horse race, but they were wrong. The Conservatives remained strong here, he said. Their vote was not squeezed. In fact, their share of the vote went up two points. And he said this was only the sixth byelection since 1970 where the governing party saw its share of the vote increase.

Paul Nuttall focused on attacking Labour, Curtice said. But he should have focused more on trying to take votes from the Conservatives, Curtice said.

Gareth Snell has just been interviewed by Andrew Neil. Neil asked him if he thought Jeremy Corbyn was an asset in the campaign. Snell said he was. He said Corbyn helped to fire up the troops in the constituency.

Here is Gareth Snell’s victory speech.

"I am proud to call the Potteries my home, and I am prouder still to have been elected its next member of Parliament" says @gareth_snell

— BBC This Week (@bbcthisweek) February 24, 2017

Full Stoke election results, with share of vote

Here are the results in full, with percentages.

Gareth Snell (Lab) 7,853 (37.09%, -2.22%)
Paul Nuttall (Ukip) 5,233 (24.72%, +2.07%)
Jack Brereton (C) 5,154 (24.35%, +1.80%)
Zulfiqar Ali (LD) 2,083 (9.84%, +5.67%)
Adam Colclough (Green) 294 (1.39%, -2.22%)
Barbara Fielding (Ind) 137 (0.65%)
The Incredible Flying Brick (Loony) 127 (0.60%)
David Furness (BNP) 124 (0.59%)
Godfrey Davies (CPA) 109 (0.51%)
Mohammed Akram (Ind) 56 (0.26%)

Lab maj 2,620 (12.38%)
2.14% swing Lab to Ukip

Electorate 57,701; Turnout 21,170 (36.69%, -13.24%)


Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed the result, saying Ukip’s claim to represent the working class has been exposed as a sham. A spokesman for the Labour leader said:

Labour’s excellent campaign has won a clear victory in an election Ukip and the Tories threw everything at.

Stoke has rejected Ukip’s politics of division and dishonesty. Ukip’s claim to represent working class people has been exposed as a sham.

Gareth Snell's victory speech

Gareth Snell is giving his victory speech.

He thanks his staff and his family.

To see the energy and commitment that everyone has shown is a reminder of the incredible strength and passion in the Labour movement, he says.

He says he is humbled to be elected MP here. And he is proud to call the Potteries his home.

He says a city dubbed the capital of Brexit has shown it has much more than that. It led the first industrial revolution and can lead the next one, he says.

It should not just be defined by the referendum.

He says people who came to Stoke to sow division have failed.

People have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear, he says.

They will not just sit back while the Tories cut the NHS to the bone and put public services at risk.

He says politics can be passionate. But he wants to put the divisions behind him.

He thanks those that voted for him. And he says he will also be MP for those that did not.

He has a plan for the Potteries. That plan begins today, he says.

Garth Snell’s Labour majority is 2,620.

Labour wins Stoke byelection - Results

Fiona Ledden, the acting returning officer, is reading out the reslts

Here are the results.

Paul Nuttall - Ukip - 5,233

Gareth Snell - Labour - 7,853

Jack Brereton - Conservative - 5,154

Zulfiqar Ali - Liberal Democrat - 2,083

Adam Colclough - Green - 294

Mohammad Akram - Independent - 56

The Incredible Flying Brick - Monster Raving Loony - 127

Godfrey Davies - Christian Peoples - 109

Barbara Fielding - Independent - 137

David Furness - BNP - 124

The candidates are about to take to the stage now in Stoke.

At Stoke the agents and candidates have just been summoned to meet the returning officer. That normally means they are about to be told the results, before they are announced publicly.

And here is Paul Nuttall’s analysis of why he may have lost the Stoke byelection.

"If I haven't won it's because I didn't get enough votes" #nuttall #stoke *result still to come*

— Kate Proctor (@KateProctorES) February 24, 2017

This is from my colleague Josh Halliday in Copeland.

Trudy Harrison, the Tory candidate, arriving here at 2. Result expected around half 2.

— Josh Halliday (@JoshHalliday) February 24, 2017

Here is Paul Nuttall arriving at the count, to be greeted by one of the “loony” contingent.

Paul Nuttall (left) arriving at the Stoke count.
Paul Nuttall (left) arriving at the Stoke count.
Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Echoing what Labour’s Jack Dromey said earlier (see 1.07pm), the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has said that losing Stoke would be “the beginning of the end for Ukip”.

This is the beginning of the end for Ukip. They no longer have a purpose.

Theresa May has adopted Farage’s approach to Brexit and her government has become indistinguishable from Ukip.

Here is the Labour candidate in Stoke, Gareth Snell, with his wife Sophia.

Gareth Snell and wife Sophia arrive at Fenton Sports Centre.
Gareth Snell and wife Sophia arrive at Fenton Sports Centre. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Ukip’s Paul Nuttall was not very forthcoming when he arrived, the Evening Standard’s Kate Proctor says.

Paul Nuttall asked what he thinks the result will be in #stoke. He said: "Dunno. I've just got here."

— Kate Proctor (@KateProctorES) February 24, 2017

At Stoke the candidates are being invited to check the last few doubtful papers. That means we’re now very close.

Votes being counted at the the Stoke count.
Votes being counted at the the Stoke count. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

This is from BuzzFeed’s Jim Waterson at Copeland.

Copeland speculation chatter to keep you going: Tories by 1,000 votes says one Tory, Very close says Labour.

— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) February 24, 2017

Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader and Stoke candidate, has just arrived at the count.

Labours’ Jack Dromey has just been speaking to Andrew Neil on This Week. Neil asked him if Tony Blair’s speech about the need to reverse Brexit, or Lord Mandelson’s declaration that he works on undermining Jeremy Corbyn every day, had damaged the campaign in this seat. Dromey said they hadn’t.

The psephologist John Curtice has just told This Week that, if Labour lose Copeland, it will be the worst defeat for the opposition at the hands of the government party since 1945.

He said that since 1945 the main opposition party has only lost byelections to the governing party on three occasions. One of those was at Mitcham and Morden (see 10.52pm). The other two were Brighouse and Spenborough in 1960, when Labour lost the seat to a Conservative/National Liberal candidate (a Tory, essentially), and Sunderland South in 1953, when Labour lost to the Conservatives.

Curtice said in all three of those seats Labour’s majority was lower than it was at Copeland. That is why Copeland would be the worst byelection defeat for an opposition to a party of government since the second world war, he said.

Labour’s Gareth Snell arrived at the count in Stoke a few minutes ago with local Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. They are looking extremely cheerful, Smeeth and Labour’s campaign chief Jack Dromey high-fived as she came in.

Speaking to journalists earlier, Dromey said he hoped Ukip would learn lessons if the party was defeated. He said:

If you have a carpet bagger with a loose sense of the truth who comes to a great city like Stoke and seeks to exploit for his own advantage and then comes unstuck, as we hope he will do, that’s the big lesson from tonight.

Labour sources are extremely pleased with the 38% turn-out. “Our huge final hours ‘get out the vote’ operation in Stoke appears to have made all the difference,” one source said.

At Stoke the candidates have just been summoned to go over doubtful papers with the returning officer. That suggests we might get a result quite soon.

The Ukip chairman Paul Oakden has told the Press Association that losing Stoke will not affect Paul Nuttall’s leadership of the party. Asked what would happen if Nuttall did not win, Oakden said:

He has a well-earned rest and then he comes back and leads our party, I suspect.

The whole narrative of Paul’s leadership depends on winning in Stoke is a nonsense.

The membership are behind Paul, they want him to be leader of the party, he wants to be leader of the party and whatever the result here is, that’s not going to change.

Matthew Hancock, the culture minister, is the Conservative figure on the BBC’s This Week tonight. But he came a cropper when asked if he could name the Conservative candidate in Stoke.

"What's the name of your candidate in Stoke?" asks @afneil

"He's a..." @MattHancockMP "I did not meet him because I did not go" #bbctw

— BBC This Week (@bbcthisweek) February 24, 2017

At Stoke Jack Dromey, the Labour campaign manager, has been telling journalists that a Labour victory here would be a “defining moment” in politics because it would show the Ukip incapable of making a breakthrough.

When Paul Nuttall was elected Ukip leader in November, he gave a speech saying he wanted his party to replace Labour. He said:

My ambition is not insignificant: I want to replace the Labour party and make Ukip the patriotic voice of working people.

Dromey also said that if Labour did win in Stoke, it needed to react with “necessary humility”. He said:

I hope we win. I think as we win we need necessary humility because there is a view that Labour is no longer listening in the way it should do.

I think what we have done in this community is precisely to do that [listen].

The Ukip MEP Gerard Batten is at the Stoke count and is being interview by Andrew Neil on This Week now. He says it is too soon to know what the result will be but, as Neil points out, he does not sound very confident.

Batten complains that Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader and Stoke candidate, has been the victim of a character assassination by the media.

This is from Sky’s Faisal Islam at the Stoke count.

This Stoke polling station count looking good for Labour @gareth_snell - few other like that from where I can see:

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) February 24, 2017

At the 2015 general election Stoke had the lowest turnout in Britain. That record, combined with today’s storm, meant people were expecting another very low turnout today. But, at 38%, the turnout was by no means the lowest for byelections this parliament. It was lower at Sleaford and North Hykeham (37%) and at Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (33%). It was also much lower at Batley and Spen (26%), but that is understandable because the main parties did not put up anyone up against the Labour candidate chosen to replace the murdered Jo Cox.

At 51% the turnout in Copeland was the second highest of the 10 byelections held this parliament. It was only higher in Richmond Park (53%).

Alan Johnson, the Labour former home secretary, is on Andrew Neil’s This Week programme tonight. Neil asked him what he would think about Labour losing Copeland. Johnson said it would “certainly” be “a bad byelection result”.

Byelections are there for oppositions to prosper. But I hope we prosper.

In Stoke the loonies have arrived.

The @Official_MRLP have arrived! Nick, The Incredible Flying Brick is in the big hat... @BBCRadioStoke

— Emma J Thomas (@EmmaJThomas) February 24, 2017

MRLP = Monster Raving Loony party.

Turnout in Copeland is 51%

And here is the turnout for Copeland.

Turnout in Copeland 51.35%

— Josh Halliday (@JoshHalliday) February 24, 2017

Turnout in Stoke is 38%

At Stoke Fiona Ledden, the acting returning officer, has just announced the turnout figures.

There were 21,200 ballots cast - 4,335 postal votes and 16,865 polling station votes.

That amounts to a turnout of 38.16%.

That’s is reasonably good for a byelection held on the day of a severe storm.

This, from Matt Singh, helps to explain what the Labour source I quoted earlier (see 11.46pm) meant when he talked about the boxes coming in from rural areas favouring the Conservatives.

This map from @andrewteale shows which bits of Copeland vote which way. Count (at Whitehaven) is in the red zone...

— NumbrCrunchrPolitics (@NCPoliticsUK) February 23, 2017

Sky’s Faisal Islam says the turnout in Stoke is around 25-30%.

.@faisalislam suggesting #stokebyelection turnout is more like 25-30

— NumbrCrunchrPolitics (@NCPoliticsUK) February 24, 2017

We are due to get the official figures in the next five minutes or so.

This is from Sky’s Tom Boadle.

9,000 postal votes here in #Copeland, official turnout expected very soon.

— Tom Boadle (@TomBoadle) February 23, 2017

The Lib Dems are now convinced that the Conservatives have won in Copeland, my colleague Jessica Elgot says.

Team Tim Farron are convinced that Copeland (next door to them) has gone from red to blue

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) February 24, 2017

The Sun’s Harry Cole is getting the same briefings.

Both Labour and LibDems are hammering the phones to say Tories have won Copeland........ could be clever spin... but...

— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) February 24, 2017

I’ve updated the post at 10.52pm to include one more case of the main opposition party losing a seat at a byelection, Glasgow Govan in 1988. You may need to refresh the page to get the update to appear.

Jamie Reed, who triggered the byelection in Copeland by resigning so that he could take up a job at Sellafield (and see a lot of of his family), is wondering what happens to the honorary title he had to take to quit as an MP.

(The formal process for resigning as an MP involves being appointed steward of the Chiltern Hundreds or steward of the Manor of Northstead, posts which are incompatible with being an MP because they are “offices of profit under the Crown” - even though they are not offices of profit, because there is no pay.)

As the votes are in but not yet counted, am I still the CrownSteward & Bailiff of the Manor or Northstead or not?

— Jamie Reed (@JamieFonzarelli) February 23, 2017

UPDATE: In the comments cynosarge has an answer to Reed’s question.

Andrew writes

Jamie Reed, who triggered the byelection in Copeland by resigning so that he could take up a job at Sellafield (and see a lot of of his family), is wondering what happens to the honorary title he had to take to quit as an MP.

The answer is that he remains Steward of the Manor of Northstead until another MP resigns and is appointed to the post.


Tories likely to win in Copeland, say Labour

Labour are starting to talk up the prospects of the Conservatives winning in Copeland. A source says that the constituency is looking neck and neck but that “the rural areas still to come in will probably favour the Tories.”


Corbyn tells Labour MPs these byelections were always going to be 'close and challenging'

Jeremy Corbyn has written an email to Labour MPs. He thanks those who have contributed to the byelection campaigns, but he does not sound over-confident of the joint outcome. “We always knew that these were going to be competitive, close and challenging elections,” he says.

Here is the email in full, addressed to “Dear colleagues”.

I wanted to write to thank you for all of your work to support the byelections. At a difficult time for the party, in the midst of the article 50 debates, our MPs have led the way. Thank you for all you have done motivating members and activists, at our phone banks, supporting our candidates and, of course, hitting the doors day in and day out. Special thanks are of course due to Andrew Gwynne, Sue Hayman, Cat Smith, Jack Dromey and Ruth Smeeth, who have gone above and beyond to lead these campaigns on behalf of the Party. Myself, the PLP, and the whole of the Labour movement owe you a great debt of thanks.

We always knew that these were going to be competitive, close and challenging elections, but with your help we have made the arguments on the issues that matter to working people – our local NHS services, and an economy that works for the whole of the country, ensuring that no one is left behind. We should all be proud of the campaigns we have run, and I have extended my thanks, on behalf of the PLP, to the party staff who have put their lives on hold and worked seven-day weeks to make the case for Labour.

We will know more once the counts are underway, and of course, colleagues will be kept updated. But for now, thank you again, and I hope everyone has the chance to relax this evening after a long (and wet) day on the doorstep.

Best wishes

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party


I just spoke to Andrew Stephenson, the Tory MP for Pendle, who is putting the brakes on any runaway triumphalism among his party colleagues. He said:

It’s too early in the evening to say. This was always going to be an uphill battle for us. This has been a Labour seat for over 80 years and that Labour vote has been fairly stable over the years.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks knocking on doors here and it’s clear there is no enthusiasm for the Labour party. But at the same time there are a lot of people who for generations have voted Labour and that core vote is still there. Whether it’s going to turn out today, we don’t know yet.

Labour 'very confident' they have held Stoke

In Stoke Labour sources are now saying, although it’s early days, they are “very confident” they have held the seat.


What’s the mood in the Labour camp in Copeland? Not as confident as in the Tories’, it’s fair to say.

A senior Labour source I spoke to this afternoon said it was “too tight to call”. The party had said that bad weather and geography could conspire against them on election day, as well as boundary changes in 2010 that altered the voting demographic.

“Our feeling is it’s genuinely tight and we just genuinely don’t know,” the source said. “Often you’ve got enough information that it’s definitely in the bag, for us or them, but it’s too tight to call.”

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell says Labour win in Stoke 'most likely outcome'

Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, has told Question Time tonight that Ukip does not expect to win in Stoke.

Ukip conceding Stoke: Douglas Carswell saying on #bbcqt "most likely outcome is Labour will win"

— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) February 23, 2017

Labour sources in Stoke were sounding cheerful late in the day campaigning, saying they had well over 500 activists out in the wind and rain.

“I’ve been out all day and I haven’t seen much Ukip. I think our ground war has been great, obviously there have been difficult conversations in this by-elections but I think we will get enough of our vote out to win,” one Labour MP campaigning today said.

Labour’s organisation suffered a frustrating setback early on however, a train with at least 10 Labour MPs as well as party staff set off from Euston at 10am and was stuck for several hours in Rugby because of Storm Doris. Most then headed for the phone bank at warm and dry Labour HQ instead.

Weather is not thought to have helped turn-out. “Activists have been out in all weathers, and when it dried up a bit, the sheets were looking a lot more promising,” the MP said.

Another non-Labour source also said a Labour win could be down to a solid ground operation. “Ukip have not been well organised, Labour have almost certainly held it,” the source said.

Officially though, Labour campaign staff are saying this remains a tight marginal seat, with turn-out in the balance and the weather in play.

Voters arriving at The Willows Primary School polling station in Stoke earlier today.
Voters arriving at The Willows Primary School polling station in Stoke earlier today. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

What would be the significance of the Conservatives winning Copeland?

A Conservative win in Copeland would be remarkable. Why?

It would be the first time the government party has taken a seat from the opposition in a byelection since Mitcham and Morden in 1982. And that was a particularly unusual contest. Bruce Douglas-Mann, who won the seat for Labour at the 1979 with a tiny majority, defected to the SDP and then, unlike other SDP defectors, resigned and triggered a byelection so that he could seek re-election as an SDP candidate. So the Labour vote was split down the middle. And Britain was in the middle of the Falklands War too, which probably did not help Labour’s chances. Angela Rumbold won the seat for the Conservatives quite comfortably.

The Mitcham and Morden byelection 1982.

It would also be one of the very rare occasions when the main opposition party has lost a seat in a byelection. By my count, this has happened just six times since 1979.

Mitcham and Morden in 1982 (Labour lost to Conservatives)

Bermondsey in 1983 (Labour lost to Liberals)

Greenwich in 1987 (Labour lost to SDP)

Glasgow Govan in 1988 (Labour lost to SNP)

Romsey in 2000 (Conservatives lost to Lib Dems)

Bradford West in 2012 (Labour lost to George Galloway)

Matt Singh, who writes the Number Cruncher Politics blog, says you have to go back to the 19th century to find something comparable to the Conservatives winning in Copeland.

More confident sounding Tory noises from Copeland. There would be nothing directly comparable since the 19th century

— NumbrCrunchrPolitics (@NCPoliticsUK) February 23, 2017

UPDATE: I have corrected this post to include one more occasion when the main opposition party lost a seat in a byelection, Glasgow Govan.


ITV has also picked up strong Tory optimism about their prospects in Copeland.

ITV reports the Tories are confident of gaining Copeland and that Labour are hoping to edge Stoke Central.

— Britain Elects (@britainelects) February 23, 2017


The ballot boxes started arriving in Stoke a few minutes ago. This is from my colleague Jessica Elgot.

Ballot boxes arriving at the count in Stoke-on-Trent - here we go...

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) February 23, 2017

I’m sitting about 20 feet from that door. And they have left it open as the boxes keep coming in. We’re all freezing.

Copeland - Candidates and past results

Here are the candidates in the Copeland byelection.

Gillian Troughton - Labour

Gillian Troughton.
Gillian Troughton. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Trudy Harrison - Conservative

Trudy Harrison.
Trudy Harrison. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Rebecca Hanson - Lib Dem

Fiona Mills - Ukip

Jack Lenox - Green

Michael Guest - Independent

Roy Ivinson - Independent

And here are the 2015 general election results for Copeland.

Labour - 16,750 (42.3%)

Conservatives - 14,186 (35.8%)

Ukip - 6,148 (15.5%)

Lib Dems - 1,368 (3.5%)

Greens - 1,179 (3%)

Tories hopeful of win in Copeland

The Tories believe they could be on the verge of an historic win in Copeland tonight. Those I’ve spoken to who have canvassed in Copeland are very bullish about their prospects.

“I’m pretty sure Labour is going to lose tonight,” said John Procter MEP, who was out and about in the west Cumbrian constituency on Thursday. He went on:

What I’ve come across on the doorstep is Labour voters saying ‘Not on this occasion’. There’s a whole series of issues – both national and local, including that the former MP chose to quit – that are playing out.

Conservative activists also said turnout appeared not to have been affected by the rain, snow and high winds that battered Cumbria throughout the day.


Corbyn says 'political establishment has let down Copeland and Stoke'

Jeremy Corbyn has put out a statement on his Facebook page to mark the moment polls have closed. He thanks everyone who has campaigned for Labour in the two constituencies. Then he goes on:

The political establishment has let down Copeland and Stoke, who have seen their industries gutted, living standards stagnate and hope for a better future for their children and grandchildren decline.

Whatever the results, the Labour party - and our mass membership - must go further to break the failed political consensus, and win power to rebuild and transform Britain.

Here is the scene at the count at Stoke. This is from the Evening Standard’s Kate Proctor.

in #stokebyelection finally. the polls have just closed and counters being given their orders. Culture Sec Karen Bradley here for Tories.

— Kate Proctor (@KateProctorES) February 23, 2017

Stoke-on-Trent Central - Candidates and past results

Here are the candidates in the Stoke-on-Trent Central byelection.

Paul Nuttall - Ukip candidate, and the party’s leader

Paul Nuttall.
Paul Nuttall. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Gareth Snell - Labour

Gareth Snell (left).
Gareth Snell (left). Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Jack Brereton - Conservative

Jack Brereton.
Jack Brereton. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Zulfiqar Ali - Liberal Democrat

Adam Colclough - Green

Mohammad Akram - Independent

The Incredible Flying Brick - Monster Raving Loony

Godfrey Davies - Christian Peoples

Barbara Fielding - Independent

David Furness - BNP

And here are the 2015 general election results for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Labour - 12,220 (39.3%)

Ukip - 7,041 (22.7%)

Conservatives - 7,008 (22.5%)

Independent (Mark Breeze) - 2,120 (6.8%)

Lib Dems - 1,296 (4.2%)

Greens - 1,123 (3.6%)

CISTA - 244 (0.8%)

Ubuntu - 32 (0.1%)


On the our live blog earlier today my colleague Haroon Siddique posted graphs from betting exchange Smarkets showing how the odds on tonight’s byelections have shifted. By this afternoon their odds gave Labour an implied 68% chance of winning in Stoke, Ukip an implied 28% chance and the Tories an implied 5% chance. And in Copeland Smarkets gave the Conservatives an implied 70% chance of winning, and Labour an implied 30% chance.

There are few less glamorous places to spend the night than in a draughty sports complex, but if you want to witness the moment when power shifts in our democracy you need to come to an election count, and they are almost always on a Thursday night, in a council leisure centre. Officials need a large space to lay out all the tables for counting and a multi-purpose sports hall is ideal.

So I’m in Stoke in the Fenton Manor sports centre for the Stoke-on-Trent Central byelection and I’ll be blogging all night covering Stoke (in front of my eyes) and also the Copeland byelection (remotely), which is counting in the sports centre in Whitehaven in Cumbria. We are not going to witness any dramatic power shifts tonight but these are the most interesting byelections of this parliament (the Washington Post are coming to Stoke, apparently) because they may reveal something quite telling about what is happening to the Labour vote in England. Stoke and Copeland are both seats that have been Labour for yonks and, although the majorities in both places have been falling (in Stoke it was 5,179 at the time of the general election, or 16.7%; in Copeland 2,564, or 6.5%) these are both seats that a Labour party on course to win a general election should be holding comfortably. Instead in Stoke they have been fighting off a high-profile challenge from Ukip, who are fielding their leader, Paul Nuttall, as the candidate. And in Copeland the Conservatives say they have a real chance of becoming the first governing party to take a seat from the opposition since Mithcham and Morden in 1982.

Poll close in about half an hour. I will be posting more background about both contests, as well as bringing you all the latest info and spin as the counting starts.

In Copeland they say they are expecting a result around 3am. In Stoke they say by 3/4am, although that sounds unduly pessimistic because it is a much smaller constituency.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Please feel free to post comments but, if you live in either of these constituencies and you’ve voted, please don’t post any comments about how you have voted until after 10pm. They are not allowed under article 66A of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and, if they go up while polls are open, the moderators will have to take them down.


Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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