Labour and UKIP both give Tories cause for delight

By Bagehot

IT IS a measure of Labour’s sorry state these days that losing just one of two seats that it has held for decades is treated as grounds for relief in the party. In the by-elections held yesterday, both triggered by the resignation from politics of centrist MPs known to despair of the party’s direction under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour held Stoke Central on a reduced vote share (37%, down from 39%) and lost Copeland to the Conservatives, whose vote share rose eight points to 44%. The Labour leader’s past opposition to nuclear power (the main employer in the Cumbria seat) and his party’s confused stance on Brexit (the seat voted to leave the EU) were both factors in the results.

Still, the biggest loser of the night was UKIP. Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader (pictured above), put his credibility on the line by running for Stoke Central, which his party referred to as the “capital of Brexit” to honour its strong support for leaving the EU last year. But his campaign was a reminder that, for all the headlines UKIP generates, it is terrible at the dull and disciplined business of campaigning: Mr Nuttall’s ground operation was poor and his campaign was mired by claims that he had lied on his website. Some in the party must be wondering where it can win, if not in somewhere like Stoke Central.

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