The loss of this former Labour seat has been blamed on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and in this case this is probably correct because of his previous record as being against nuclear power stations and also he is against Trident replacement, quite rightly in my opinion on both counts. However two big local employers are Sellafield nuclear power plant and the shipyards at neighboring Barrow-in-Furness where Trident submarines are built. Therefore, despite official Labour Party policy still being in favor of both nuclear power stations and Trident replacement, the electorate were reluctant to vote Labour while led by Jeremy.
However it is not all down to Corbyn as the Labour vote in Copeland had been going down and down long before he was elected leader. Labour ended up only 2,000 or so votes behind the Tory who became the new MP.
This is a unique constituency because of the two local big employers, so cannot be regarded as a barometer as to what might happen in a General Election. Though it also has to be said there were other factors as to why Labour is so far behind in the opinion polls, and why they lost Copeland. A divided political party is bound to find it difficult to convince the electorate to vote for it, especially when 172 Labour MPs voted ‘no confidence’ in the democratically elected leader and many constantly join the media in rubbishing his leadership. This is not down to Corbyn, but to the Labour MPs who refused to give the new, inexperienced leader a chance and showed no loyalty to him or the membership who elected him. This was an MP from the backbenches who never expected to become leader, and a bit of advice and help would have been welcome instead of the constant back-stabbing.
Another reason for the loss of Copeland, and also a factor in Stoke-on-Trent which Labour held on to, was that both Labour MPs resigned to take alternative employment, and they had only been elected in the 2015 General Election. An MP who resigns after such a short time will tend to damage his Party in that constituency – MPs are expected to serve their full term unless there are exceptional circumstances.
So what is likely to happen in the next General Election, whenever it is held? The Party MUST unite behind the democratically elected leader whoever he or she is, and this includes the Parliamentary Labour Party. To go into a General Election with most of the Labour MPs against the Leader of the Opposition would be political suicide.