2015 Result:
Conservative: 14186 (35.8%)
Labour: 16750 (42.3%)
Lib Dem: 1368 (3.5%)
Green: 1179 (3%)
UKIP: 6148 (15.5%)
MAJORITY: 2564 (6.5%)

Category: Semi-marginal Labour seat

Geography: North West, Cumbria. The whole of the Copeland council area and part of the Allerdale council area.

Main population centres: Whitehaven, Keswick, Cleator Moor, Egremont, Millom.

Profile: A seat on the remote west coast of Cumbria. The constituency is a mixture of hill farming countryside, impressive Lake District wilderness, including Scafell Pike itself, and somewhat economically depressed former mining or iron working towns. The main town is Whitehaven, historically a coal mining town and commercial port, mining ceased in the 1980s. The Marchon chemical factory also closed in 2005 leaving the nearby Sellafield nuclear power complex as the most important source of local employment. Keswick, to the north of the constituency, was the first place to produce graphite pencils and was for many years the base of Derwent, the manufacturers of fine art pencils. They are now based just outside the constituency in Lillyhall.

Politics: Copeland and its predecessor seat Whitehaven have been represented by the Labour party since 1935, although not always with comfortable majorities.

Current MP
JAMIE REED (Labour) Born 1973, Whitehaven. Educated at Whitehaven school and Manchester University. Former Sellafield press officer. Former Copeland councillor. First elected as MP for Copeland in 2005. PPS to Tony McNulty 2006-2008, PPS to Harriet Harman 2008-2010.
Past Results
Con: 15866 (37%)
Lab: 19699 (46%)
LDem: 4365 (10%)
BNP: 1474 (3%)
Oth: 1383 (3%)
MAJ: 3833 (9%)
Con: 10713 (32%)
Lab: 17033 (50%)
LDem: 3880 (11%)
UKIP: 735 (2%)
Oth: 1396 (4%)
MAJ: 6320 (19%)
Con: 13027 (37%)
Lab: 17991 (52%)
LDem: 3732 (11%)
MAJ: 4964 (14%)
Con: 12081 (29%)
Lab: 24025 (58%)
LDem: 3814 (9%)
Oth: 389 (1%)
MAJ: 11944 (29%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
JAMIE REED (Labour) See above.
DANNY GALLAGHER (Liberal Democrat) Former Preston councillor. Contested Wyre and Preston North 2010.
Comments - 1,738 Responses on “Copeland”
  1. Thank you Matt and Bt Says 🙂 Yep you’re absolutely right Paul D, his incessant nature really puts me off of this site at times, hopefully it’s just me and not the same for other contributors.

    As for where constitutes a viable target for the Conservative Party in Scotland I suppose it really depends what boundaries we’re talking about: the existing Westminster boundaries (which are due to be replaced before 2020) or the upcoming boundaries (which are being developed at the moment and due to be used at the 2020 UK general election).

    I believe that the best points of reference in determining which constituencies are the most likely to vote Conservative in 2020 are the Scottish independence referendum results (as the strength of the SNP in any given area typically correlates with the Yes vote from 2014), the 2016 Holyrood election results (as current opinion polling in Scotland is similar to the results of that election) and to a lesser extent the European Union membership referendum results: the extent to which that plays a role in determining how well the Conservatives do in Scotland remains to be seen.

    On the current Westminster boundaries my own notional figures (see: ) would suggest that the following constituencies voted against independence on a margin of 60.0% No – 40.0% Yes or above back in 2014:
    * Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale – 68% No
    * West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine – 67% No
    * Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk – 66% No
    * Edinburgh West – 66% No
    * Aberdeen South – 65% No
    * East Dunbartonshire – 65% No
    * Edinburgh South – 65% No
    * Orkney and Shetland – 65% No
    * North East Fife – 64% No
    * Dumfries and Galloway – 63% No
    * East Renfrewshire – 63% No
    * East Lothian – 62% No
    * Edinburgh South West – 62% No
    * Gordon – 62% No
    * Edinburgh North and Leith – 60% No
    * Ochil and South Perthshire – 60% No

    Based on the 2016 Holyrood election you would probably expect the Conservatives to be the central unionist party in most of these constituencies with the Liberal Democrats being competitive in East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West and North East Fife, Labour potentially coming ahead of the Conservatives in East Lothian, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh North & Leith.

    In constituencies where the unionist vote held up well in 2015 and 2016 and where the Remain vote was particularly strong at the EU referendum I would expect the SNP to hold up better (mostly around Edinburgh and Greater Glasgow), falling back harder in constituencies which had stronger Leave votes (around the rest of Scotland: particularly the north-east and south of the country).

    The latest Westminster opinion poll in Scotland has the SNP on 47% of the vote (unchanged on the constituency vote from 2016) and the Conservatives on 27% of the vote (up 5% on the constituency vote from 2016). These figures would almost certainly result in the Conservatives holding onto the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale constituency and gaining the Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk constituency from the SNP on a good margin. Politically speaking the West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine constituency is broadly identical to the Aberdeenshire West constituency in the Scottish Parliament which is currently represented by Conservative MSP Alexander Burnett: so they would clearly be ahead here too. Dumfries and Galloway seems to have also voted Conservative in 2016, so they would be looking at gaining that constituency at Westminster with an increased majority on the Holyrood election.

    The next most likely Conservative target in Scotland would probably be the East Renfrewshire constituency: a very affluent suburban seat in the south-west of the Glasgow urban area. This constituency had a significant Remain vote at the 2016 EU referendum (74.3% Remain) and has had a much poorer swing to the SNP in recent elections in comparison to other parts of the country: with this in mind the SNP vote should probably hold on here more than elsewhere in Scotland. All things considered it would probably be a very tight marginal between the Conservatives and SNP on the figures given. Other potential targets for the party could include Aberdeen South (which has considerably better boundaries for the Conservatives in comparison to the equivalent Holyrood seat of Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, which might in practice be a stronger target for the party in comparison with East Renfrewshire) and Edinburgh South West (which is broadly similar to the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency at Holyrood, where the SNP had a majority of 7.4%). Outside of that the Conservatives were ahead on the regional list vote in the Edinburgh Southern constituency (which is a more affluent version of the existing Edinburgh South constituency): although a strong pro-Labour tactical vote in that area would make gaining the Edinburgh South constituency very challenging. Moray also had a 50% Leave vote at the EU referendum and a 58% No vote in 2014, so it could be an important target constituency for the party, although the more favourable Moray boundaries in the Scottish Parliament returned a solid 47% SNP vote in 2016, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up there. Perth & North Perthshire is effectively the same as the Perthshire North constituency in the Scottish Parliament which had a 48.6% SNP vote in 2016: it is believed to have went 60% Remain and 57% No. Angus is basically out of the question for the time being as it had a 55% No vote (which would put the SNP at over 50% of the vote there in 2016).

    As for the Liberal Democrats: Edinburgh West is very similar to the existing Edinburgh Western constituency in the Scottish Parliament, which had a 7% Lib Dem majority in 2016. North East Fife is less favourable for the party in comparison to the Holyrood seat in that area (as it covers part of the more working class town of Leven), although it would still represent a very promising target for the Liberal Democrats looking ahead towards 2020. The same applies for East Dunbartonshire. I believe that all three constituencies are winnable for the party, alongside their solitary constituency in Orkney & Shetland.

    Labour’s main targets would be East Lothian and Edinburgh South.

    The new boundaries are currently being developed at the moment, although we have a rough idea on how they should pan out based on the allocated review area designations and the interim proposals which the boundary commission have already published.

    Some Conservative targets which are guaranteed to be created from the review include:
    * Aberdeen South: covering southern parts of the Aberdeen City council area
    * Clydesdale and Eskdale: covering eastern parts of the Dumfries and Galloway council area and southern parts of the South Lanarkshire council area
    * Dumfries and Galloway: covering western parts of the Dumfries and Galloway council area
    * Gordon and Deeside: covering central and south-western parts of the Aberdeenshire council area
    * Kincardine and North Angus: covering south-eastern parts of the Aberdeenshire council area and northern parts of the Angus council area
    * Scottish Borders: covering a majority of the Scottish Borders council area

    Other likely Conservative targets from the review (which might not exist at the discretion of the Boundary Commission) include:
    * Eastwood and Loudoun: covering eastern parts of the East Renfrewshire council area and north-eastern parts of the East Ayrshire council area
    * Edinburgh South (or South West): covering southern parts the City of Edinburgh council area
    * South Ayrshire: covering a majority of the South Ayrshire council area
    * South Tayside: covering southern parts of the Perth and Kinross council area and north-eastern parts of the Fife council area

    I have covered the interim proposals from the boundary commission at length elsewhere on this site (if you’re interested check out what I’ve said on page 5 of “Aberdeen South” and page 11 of “Edinburgh South”). Basically I suggest that there are seven major Conservative targets from the interim proposals, in order (based on the 2016 Holyrood election results):
    – Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk
    – Dumfries and Galloway
    – Edinburgh South, West and Central
    – Clydesdale and Eskdale
    – Ayr and Carrick
    – Eastwood and Loudoun
    – Gordon and Deeside

    There are a further two outside targets in Kincardine & Angus East and Aberdeen South. Please check out page 11 of Edinburgh South page for my independence referendum and Holyrood election notionals for all of those constituencies.

    At a push there’s also Dundee East & Angus Glens, Perthshire and Moray & Nairn: which all voted 57% No back in 2014. I doubt that the Conservatives would be able to effectively challenge the SNP in these seats without the SNP falling back to 45% nationally.

    As for the Liberal Democrats the proposed Edinburgh West constituency is very good for the party: a vast improvement on the Edinburgh Western constituency in the Scottish Parliament and on the existing Westminster boundaries which would make them favourites there in my opinion (even in an election similar in style to 2015 with the SNP repeating their landslide result). North East Fife and Kirkintilloch & Bearsden South are both much worse for the party than their predecessor seats as North East Fife gains the working class towns of Buckhaven and Methil, which was the best Yes area in Fife back in 2014. East Dunbartonshire loses parts of the very affluent and unionist suburb of Bearsden, gaining some staunch SNP areas in northern and eastern Kirkintilloch.

    For Labour the primary targets would be Edinburgh South West & Central and East Lothian.

  2. An important reminder: the SNP are currently polling at around/in excess of the results of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election results: realistically I would expect their vote to be broadly similar to the results of the 2016 Holyrood election results across most of the country, increased around Greater Glasgow and Edinburgh – this makes many constituencies in the north-east of the country (places like Angus, North Perthshire and Moray) out of the question as potential gains for the Conservative party as the SNP vote was very strong in those areas back in 2016.

    As I’ve mentioned there are nine realistic targets for the Conservatives based on the interim boundary proposals under these circumstances. On the latest polling figures of 47% SNP 27% Conservative the Conservatives would be looking to take their seven primary targets of:

    – Ayr and Carrick
    – Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk
    – Clydesdale and Eskdale
    – Dumfries and Galloway
    – Eastwood and Loudoun
    – Edinburgh South West and Central
    – Gordon and Deeside (covering a majority of Alex Salmond’s current constituency)

    If the Conservatives can build up their vote a bit more then they would also be competitive in Aberdeen South and Kincardine & Angus East.

    On the current boundaries I would suggest that they would win the following constituencies on the given polling figures:

    – Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk
    – Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Selkirk
    – Dumfries and Galloway
    – West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

    And possibly also Aberdeen South and East Renfrewshire, becoming more competitive in Edinburgh South West with an increased vote share.

  3. @ Jack Sheldon:
    “Re Scotland on current polling you have to think the Conservatives would not only win Dumfries & Galloway, Berwickshire and West Aberdeenshire but win them comfortably. With a Tory vote share in a high 20s the real battles could be in place like East Renfrewshire, Perth & North Perthsire, Moray, Aberdeen South, Stirling and Edinburgh South West.
    But of course there are boundary changes and it is far, far too early to say if their polling will remain at the level it currently is.
    On current boundaries the LDs would be short odds to win back NE Fife, Edinburgh West and East Dumbartonshire.”

    Very good assessment here: I completely agree omitting Perth & North Perthshire as a potential Conservative gain at the moment.

    “I think the lib Dems are clearly still the main challenger to the SNP in Edinburgh W and NE Fife and some of the Highland seats, but have been replaced by the Tories in the Borders and most of NE Scotland. Not sure they will do very well in E Dumbarton unless Jo Swinson comes back…”

    In East Dunbartonshire looks can be deceiving: the boundaries at Holyrood are very different from the boundaries at Westminster as the Holyrood seat excludes much of Bearsden and Milngavie: affluent, suburban, very unionist areas. It covers the more deprived northern and eastern parts of Kirkintilloch as well, areas which are covered by the Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East constituency at the British Parliament and are significantly better for the SNP. This did the Lib Dems no favours in 2016. Considering the role tactical voting has played in other constituencies which are similar in nature to East Dunbartonshire (Aberdeen Central, Edinburgh Southern, Edinburgh Western and Eastwood) I would say that their vote should hold up here if the boundary changes don’t go through.

    “To clarify, the reason I doubted why folks were suggesting that East Dunbartonshire is that the constituency will be disappearing in it’s present form. Part of Bearsden (good LibDem country) will drop out and part of Kilsyth (good SNP) will come in. However, good LibDem candidates have proved often in the past that they can buck the trend.”

    Actually East Dunbartonshire is to gain the remaining parts of Kirkintilloch, which is currently covered by the Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East constituency. The allocated boundary review areas means that this is inevitable assuming that the boundary changes pass. Also Kirkintilloch is located inside of the East Dunbartonshire council area whereas Kilsyth is located in North Lanarkshire. As part of the boundary review Kilsyth is to join parts of Cumbernauld and northern Monklands in North Lanarkshire: solid SNP areas.

  4. I was generalising by terming it “part of Kilsyth” but I’m sure you get my drift.

  5. Swing works well in a two party system but in the 3-5 party system we seem to have the calculated swing can in theory be based on the rise and fall of both parties. The churn of the vote accurately projects where the votes rise and fall.

    Copeland is the highest by elections turnout in a Labour seat since Crewe and Nantwich in 2007. Turnouts are dismal all round in comparison with days gone by

  6. Thanks NTY, a very thorough and informative assessment of things

  7. Brilliant, NTY.

    Thank you. I wish my Geography of Scotland was better, especially Central belt.

  8. “I’m not convinced that ANGUS and BANFF & BUCHAN are winnable in a GE just now.”

    I am – but no more. Thinking they are ‘winnable’ is not the same as predicting a win.

  9. Gillian Troughton has been confirmed as the Labour candidate for the Genreal Election.

  10. Wouldn’t it count as a gain?

  11. Gill Troughton who lost the Copeland By-election for Labour has now lost her County Council seat as well.

  12. Con gain here I predict, with increased majority (now that really is a paradox!)

  13. There’re rumours that Labour could win back Copeland!!

  14. No question of that if the exit poll is right. However, conflicting early results make me VERY cautious!

  15. It would be a surprise so soon after the byelection

  16. Tories have won/held/gained here

  17. Has any candidate lost three electoral contests in such quick succession? Just 105 days separate Gillian Troughton’s two defeats in Copeland, with a council election thrown in for good measure.

    Even Zac Goldsmith got lucky the third time…

  18. Copeland is the most affordable borough in the UK, followed by Ayr, Stirling and Pendle (all 3 times average earnings for first time buyers).

    The most unaffordable dozen are all London boroughs, with the worst being Hackney, Haringey, Newham and Brent.

    Pretty obvious – although it is amusing that the former are all Tory now and the latter all Labour seats.

  19. Though only one of the former were Tory and if polls are to be believed only Ayr would Tory if there was an election

  20. The thing to remember is – “most affordable” is not the same as “cheapest”, because the former takes into account people’s earnings. The reason why Copeland is more affordable than somewhere like Middlesbrough is because Copeland is full of engineers with PhDs working at Sellafield.

    Similarly, the reason that Haringey and Hackney are less affordable than, say, Westminster or Kensington & Chelsea, is because it is full of people on relatively average wages, with quite a lot of students who have no wage at all.

  21. PT – not true actually.

    The multiples were merely based on average national earnings of £26,500.

    Copeland was most affordable as house prices there were 3 times average earnings with those London boroughs being 12 times average earnings.

    It really would be very complicated to try to look at average earnings in every UK borough.

  22. If this is based on average national earnings, how are Hackney, Haringey, Newham and Brent are at the top, rather than the London Boroughs with the highest house prices – such as those Polltroll has mentioned?

    And is there a link to whatever this is based on?

  23. @Polltroll

    “It really would be very complicated to try to look at average earnings in every UK borough.”

    Not really, it’s a relatively straightforward query of Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings data through NOMIS.

    Here’s a barebones version (gross annual salary, mean and media, FT workers only) at constituency level I ran off just now. You can mess with criteria to get better data that suit you. Don’t worry about the excel error message when you open the data, it’s a cosmetic bug.

  24. The survey I saw was in the Sunday Times and re affordability for first time buyers, so I’d assume data was from either Land Registry records, estate agents and/or the Help to Buy scheme.

    First time buyers presumably don’t go in much for million pound properties in Chelsea.

    Chris R – There’s two distinct and different groups though. Where jobs are based and where people live. Indeed Frank Field referred to this problem of data not being available and up-to-date when the DWP Select Committee was hearing evidence. eg if you look up Lpool Riverside you’d think it had full employment as there are more jobs than adults in that constituency – but of course most doing them do not live there. It’s true that there is ward by ward data from the Census for earnings and so on but it usually takes 3 years for the same to be published by universities or local authorities in reports. The only up-to-date annual figures I’m aware of borough/city-wide are small surveys by trade unions or student unions re the cost of living in different UK cities.

  25. @Lancs Observer

    The age-old debate about the difference between domicile and work location does exist but should not be used as a red herring to ignore the data that is collected, just to be mindful that it doesn’t tell the whole story. In any case, one of the mistakes that is usually made – and which Field made there – is to overestimate the effect of workers crossing administrative boundaries and underestimate the number and effect of those who do not. The fact that making the mistake Field made strengthened Field’s point was, of course, entirely a coincidence.

    Anyway, you can interrogate APS data, through NOMIS, using travel-to-work geographies (which gets around much of these issues). Centre for Cities have just published up-to-date data as part of their annual Cities Outlook series (here:

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘it takes 3 years’ for the data to be published. No, it is there, for public use, once it’s released (2017 data should be available Easter-ish), and people use it, even if you don’t then read the outputs.

    Cost of living data is a different issue. Had you said ‘it’s hard to get cost-of-living data’, then I would have agreed with you. (PS if someone else wants to come in and tell me *I* am wrong and supplies me with a good, robust source of up-to-date cost of living data at city level, I am not going to write a passive-aggressive post about it, I am going to tearfully wring your virtual hand and call you friend)

  26. Chris R – I agree with much of what you say, but your reply to myself above (29.01.18) implied that you had seen ‘borough by borough’ data which is up-to-date.

    I realise Sefton is unusual, but there is simply no such up-to-date income data for that borough. Travel to work areas are useful yes but again it’s simply a fact that ward by ward data is only published on a largescale 2.5 years after a Census.

    Field wasn’t wrong at all – it isn’t a slight anomaly I’m talking about. I was referring to the fact that MOST of the over 90,000 who work in Lpool Riverside seat do not live there. The reason Frank is very aware of this is because a quarter of them are backed up every day driving home to the Mersey Tunnel travelling through his constituency.

    He’s one of the few experts on Universal Credit and indeed the civil servant in reply admitted that up-to-date data is not available. It’s precisely why HMRC are (wrongly) taking £ from student loans a year or more after they were repaid in full and why the self-employed UC claimant is being underpaid by DWP.

  27. Easily missed but significant appointment: Boris Johnson has made Trudy Harrison his PPS.

  28. Historic win here in a by election 2 months before the GE. She now has a 5800, 14%, majority

  29. Will she stand in the proposed Cumbria West?

  30. “Historic win here in a by election 2 months before the GE. She now has a 5800, 14%, majority”

    By the standards of elsewhere (Mansfield having a 15000 majority, Workington and Barrow both easy gains) that seems quite modest, perhaps even a bit disappointing.

    But this is a very polarised, generally low swing seat.

  31. Labour share is still higher here than in Workington but that is because this was Tory in 2017 and therefore no brexit party.
    An Urban seat combining areas of here and Workington would still be a viable target for Labour next time if some progress is to be made while Mansfield is Labour majority only territory.

  32. Loads of very highly educated people working at Sellafield. Highly educated people lean Labour. Makes it somewhat different to most “red wall” seats.

  33. I’d say Trudy Harrison would beat Mark Jenkinson for the safe seat nomination being she has more experience and will probably be a junior minster by 2022.

  34. “Loads of very highly educated people working at Sellafield. Highly educated people lean Labour.”

    More likely doctors & teachers etc choose to live here, in the attractive bits, rather than in the more grim and less rural Barrow or Workington.

    I can’t see voting for Corbyn being a very common pursuit at a nuclear power station.

  35. I’d love to see a breakdown of Labour support among graduates of different subjects. I’d imagine arts graduates would swing much more heavily behind Labour than STEM graduates (at least once you take the doctors out of the latter). Largely tied to differing perceptions of higher education as an intrinsic/public good versus a private investment in future career opportunities.

  36. “I’d imagine arts graduates would swing much more heavily behind Labour than STEM graduates (at least once you take the doctors out of the latter).”

    I think doctors may well lean Tory overall, once you include all the eminent surgeons and private practitioners. Corbynite junior doctors tweeting from A&E do not a whole profession represent. Remember a large number of doctors are self employed and would regard Corbyn’s policy on forcing them to become NHS employees as a bucket of cold sick.

  37. The Ind elected Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie, has defected to the Conservatives.

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