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 - 1,754 Responses on “Copeland”
  1. Chris K – what makes you so confident that “Labour coming to their senses and electing a more moderate leader” would have any impact on their ability to win in 2020 or beyond?

    As far as I’m aware, all polling on the subject suggests Labour would be doing just as badly in the polls under a whole host of other potential leaders – many of whom could be described as “moderate” .

    Notwithstanding the fact that it was the moderate element of the party which oversaw Labour’s destruction in Scotland – the main reason Labour won’t win power for the foreseeable future.

  2. ‘Motivation seems the most likely answer – which brings us back to Corbyn again.’

    Speak to any Labour canvasser and they will tell you the one issue on which they didn’t have any answer to was ‘why is Corbyn leader’

    It was and is a massive problem for Labour

    We all know that Corbyn has been given more than a rough ride from both the press and his own party – and whilst any right-minded person would feel obvious sympathy for who is fundamentally a decent man (something you couldn’t any about many of his opponents) he must realise that continuing as leader is helping nobody but the Tories and their current right-wing government and when they do up the a ante and do the thongs they think Brexit will let them get away with – abolishing minimum wage, cutting the 20-day holiday for employees, cutting the top rate of tax etc – there will be nobody to effectively oppose it and Corbyn’s leadership will be to blame

    When people compare May to Thatcher they forget that 1979 Britain was if not a socialist country, a social democratic one, whereas the one May inhereitred is a neo-liberal one

  3. PT…In the interests of saving space here – which is important – is there any chance you would act constructively when I request that you collect your thoughts before posting three times when one would be much better…?

  4. Conveniently Maxim Parr-Reid/Conservative Estimate/Plopwellian Tory is ignoring his completely meaningless promises to leave this site if UKIP lost Stoke Central (which he constantly spammed onto this site for absolutely no reason) and is annoying everybody… He’s almost a model politician.

  5. As student of politics, I’m sure he’ll appreciate these words of implorement::-

    “You have (posted here) too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go”

  6. ‘Isn’t Copeland the fattest borough in the country,’

    I don’t wish to encourage you but I thought Boston & Skegness held that title, followed by Broxbourne – two very right-wing seats where UKIP polls well

  7. And we know UKIP don’t poll well in Copeland, so that squashes Tim’s (no doubt highly scientific) correlation theory between UKIP and obesity.

  8. Yes, I think both Copeland and Barrow were the ‘fattest’ seats and then maybe Blackpool, so all up here.

  9. Ten years ago a great prophet spoke on the old site (notice the last sentence):

    ‘ Derbyshire NE, Rother Valley, Don Valley, Bassetlaw and Penistone/Stocksbridge have near identical social makeups and elecion results.

    They have a number of characteristics that could bode well for the Conservatives in future:

    Extremely white, very few students, no extremes in wealth, socially conservative, distrust of London and Europe, good motorway communications leading to new commuter developments, formerly dominated by old-labour industry (coal) but no longer, discredited local Labour party.

    With the right sort of leader (David Davis would be better in these areas than David Cameron) and Rosindell style local candidates the Conservatives would have great potential.

    This may sound far-fetched but how many people would have predicted only 10 years ago that the Republicans could win West Virginina (by 15% no less) whilst losing New Hampshire.

    This could also apply to the four Labour constituenies in Cumbria. ‘

  10. Very interesting reading: Jamie Reed on what life has been like since he announced his resignation:

  11. Hardly unforseeable. But we’re talking about a BY ELECTION here remember.

    COPELAND will return to LAB at the next general election.

  12. Alex F

    The standard practice is for governments to lose seats at by-elections to the Opposition and to sometimes regain them at the subsequent general election.

    Labour has managed to reverse the first part of the process.

  13. As it has gone blue in a byelection then, if the boundary review doesn’t go through before the next election, I think it is almost certain to stay blue.

  14. Yes, Paul D, but with a smaller Conservative majority, just as Mitcham & Morden did back in 1983.

  15. ”COPELAND will return to LAB at the next general election.”

    Doubtful on their current trajectory and unless Labour actually managed to dig itself out of the very deep hole in which it finds itself Copeland will be very hard to win back. It is very likely that if a general election were held today the Tories would have won Copeland by significantly more than they did at the by-election because here the national government was not at stake and Labour would have got no traction at all over the hospital. With current polling Copeland would go Tory easily by more than 10%.

    Essentially with a Tory lead of anywhere near 18% in a general election all ‘non metropolitan’ Labour seats (which would have larger anti-Labour swings than average) with majorities less than 10% would be as good as easy locked in Tory gains. The battleground would be non metropolitan seats with Labour majorities of 10%-20% and metropolitan Labour seats with Labour majorities from 0%-10%.

  16. Pep is mostly right, albeit he is presenting a best-/worst-case scenario. Only one poll as far as I am aware has shown an 18-point lead and a 13- to 15-point gap has been the norm of late. The other caveat is, of course, that the general election is most probably three years away, and a lot can change by then (though increasingly the leader of the Labour Party does not look like being one of those changes).

    Summarising Copeland:

    1) Clearly Sellafield and West Cumbria Hospital were the main talking points. I feel that these mostly balanced each other out, and from an outsider’s perspective it does appear as the parties both put all their eggs in one basket. Labour’s claims were somewhat hyperbolic – babies do not frequently die at birth and those births that go wrong would presumably be able to be diverted to A&E. Meanwhile the Conservative attack ads depicted Corbyn from long before anyone knew he was, though it is fair to say he is not one to change his mind. Theresa May had a chance to U-turn on the hospital closures, and Jeremy Corbyn could have been more vocal in his support of Sellafield, but both seemed to plough on with their own agendas rather than addressing the opponent.

    2) Brexit seems to have largely gone away as an issue for the moment. Brexit had a significant effect in Richmond and in Witney, but not here. Voters have for the most part realised that it won’t be stopped, even those who would dearly love for it to be otherwise – though it would be nice to see another by-election in an affluent Tory/Remain seat to confirm this hypothesis.

    3) I don’t buy the Storm Doris excuse. The argument goes that poorer Labour voters, who don’t have cars, couldn’t make it to the polling station in the bad weather. But in most recent polling there has been almost no difference between ABC1s and C2DEs in voting intention – both groups seem to be splitting Con 40 / Lab 25 or thereabouts. So the differential turnout phenomenon doesn’t really work like it used to. Plus turnout held up well in any case.

    4) It hasn’t really been mentioned anywhere but Trudy Harrison was an excellent candidate – local, in politics for the right reasons, with a history of local activism (she led a campaign to prevent the closure of a school, which may have answered some fears about the hospital on the doorstep). Labour had the option to select a similar local campaigner (that Cumbrian Of The Year winner whose name eludes me) but in the end took the safer option of picking a local councillor. Wrong choice, perhaps?

  17. ”I don’t buy the Storm Doris excuse.”

    No it’s laughable. Turnout was 51.33% which is pretty fantastic for a by-election. Saying the weather suppressed turnout is a ludicrous claim. Though making idiotic claims (Cat Smith, Ian Lavery, John McDonnell etc.) seems to be all the range in Labour lately. You should see comments on newspaper articles on Facebook by Corbynite true believers blaming everyone but dear leader showing that seemingly nothing will wake Corbyn’s base up to reality.

    What really happened was an electorate that had voted Labour less than 2 years earlier braved the weather and turned out to make it be known exactly what they think of Corbyn’s Labour party/satisfaction with the government.

    ”13- to 15-point gap”

    Even that would see Labour sustain heavy losses. Plus the pols have a reputation for overestimating Labour anyway (though the polling companies have changed their methodology). In my opinion the 6.7% swing to the government in Copeland indicates that Labour are doing even worse than national polling suggests because governments typically do better in general elections than by-elections.

  18. RICHARD – in reply. ..there’s no such thing any more as “standard practice”…all bets are off.

    When – not if – JC hands over to a decent heir (Keir??)…Labour will rebuild and in the General Election in 2019 – or 2020 it’ll be all up for grabs.

    At the end of the day, no Conservative politician REALLY wants to destroy the “Labour Party”. The people who support and count on the support of Labour (the poor) are needed by the very people who like & support the Conservative Party.

  19. There was polling done on everyone from McDonnell, Clive Lewis, Rayner, Owen Smith, Eagle, Hilary Benn, Sadiq Khan to Dan Jarvis, Chuka Ummuna, Kier Starmer, etc. No one received net positive rantings. A party has never won an election without either positive leadership ratings or trust on the economy. Labour has neither. Labour won’t likely have positive leadership ratings in the future either. Therefore Labour can only win if they are able to dispel this ball and chain that is the banking crisis and are able to tear into the Tories on the deficit, debt, casual working, etc.

  20. ”A party has never won an election without either positive leadership ratings or trust on the economy.”

    I thought it was just they had to be ahead on one, not necessarily in net positive territory.

    ”McDonnell, Clive Lewis, Rayner, Owen Smith, Eagle, Hilary Benn, Sadiq Khan to Dan Jarvis, Chuka Ummuna, Kier Starmer”

    To be fair someone like Dan Jarvis or Kier Starmer or even Angela Rayner will get a very high amount of ‘don’t knows’ as very few people outside the politically engaged bubble in which we reside will know who they are. Even if they can’t get into net positive I bet someone like Dan Jarvis would be polling a country mile better than Corbyn, I can see Rayner becoming chronically unpopular though.

    ”Therefore Labour can only win if they are able to dispel this ball and chain that is the banking crisis and are able to tear into the Tories on the deficit, debt, casual working, etc.”

    Yeah and it will take a far more talented and far less toxic leader than Corbyn to achieve this. Leafdership and economic trust are not mutually exclusive. Seen as the public heavily dislikes Corbyn personally they will automatically be predisposed to mistrust Labour on all other issues. Just out of interest Matt would you like to see Corbyn go?

  21. Matt – a lot of those figures are unknown to 90% of the public (as indeed was Jeremy Corbyn two years ago). There might be a hidden gem inside there. Theresa May’s leadership ratings may yet slide into the negative as well. To be honest I feel that turning round ratings on leadership is more possible than on the economy, as leadership ratings are far more volatile.

    On the economy, they have in fairness tried to bolster their economic credibility hiring some left-wing economists to advise them. But it seems they didn’t seek advice with open minds, they sought affirmation of their own ideas, and when told that their numbers didn’t add up they fired them. Meanwhile they have swung wildly between basically following the Keynesian policy platform of Ed Miliband and fringe policies like People’s Quantitative Easing* and a maximum wage. It is fair to say that they won’t turn around their image on the economy without a good deal more message discipline – to be honest that’s more important then whether your plans actually work.

    *What is PQE anyway? It sounds like what Gordon Brown did, only with a gratuitous invocation of “the people” to reinforce the Labour leadership’s Marxist credentials.

  22. ”On the economy, they have in fairness tried to bolster their economic credibility hiring some left-wing economists to advise them.”

    Didn’t that fail miserably? I seem to remember the likes of Thomas Piketty severed their relationship due to how shockingly inept and that the leadership are still stuck in the mind-set of fighting the battles of 40 years ago.

  23. I agree with Polltroll about Trudy Harrison actually.

    Seemed like the sort of candidate an electorate could relate to, and could be an effective constituency MP. The sort that could withstand swings against the party and hang on.

    Might be entirely wrong about that, but it doesn’t take a genius to establish that she is easily more capable and less gaffe prone than someone like Gareth Snell.

  24. I was amazed at the fact that it wasn’t even that close. This has to be the worst by-election result for an opposition party in the history of modern British politics. When governing parties have gained seats at by-elections it has usually been because the constituency had been ultra-marginal at the previous general election. One cannot say this of Copeland.

  25. ”I was amazed at the fact that it wasn’t even that close. This has to be the worst by-election result for an opposition party in the history of modern British politics.”

    Yes it was a disaster. Copeland indicates to me that Labour are probably doing even worse (or at least worse in small town England) than even national the polling would suggest. Seats that many in Labour probably consider safe seats are probably at severe risk if things are similar in 2020 as they are now. The 6.7% swing the Tories got in Copeland would hand the Tories Newport East for example…

  26. And of course most of the marginal seats Labour needs to win an election are small and medium sized English towns. Only a few are in big cities.

  27. Alex F – not with the same 2 Labour & Tory candidates and Party Leaders it won’t.

  28. Elsewhere I read someone noted that Copeland has never returned anyone who was not connected to the nuclear industry. The new MP is not but her husband is.

    It could be that simple.

  29. Pepps
    Swings in by-elections are almost always much greater than in General Elections (otherwise there would have been Lib Dem landslides in most General Elections since 1960!). Fairly obvious reasons are that people are not making a government and like to kick an unpopular party. Also the much greater intensity of the campaign increases the squeeze on other parties, in this case UKIP.

    The reason governing parties do not win very often is because they are usually much less popular than the opposition in mid term. Now it is the Labour Party that is unpopular and Labour voters are very cross with their Party for electing Corbyn and being in a permanent state of civil war, not to mention being too pro-Brexit or too anti-Brexit depending on the Labour voter.

    However, on uniform national swing this seat would have gone Tory anyway, and on proportional swing including don’t knows and assuming they would not vote, I got a similar Tory majority to the result. So even if the boundary changes did not happen I would expect a Tory MP clearly embedded in the community to hang on comfortably unless the national polls change in Labour’s favour.

  30. Chris, Trudy Harrison did work at Sellafield before, though, so she at least was connected to the nuclear industry.

  31. We knew that Labour were at a low ebb in the polls, and this result isn’t that far out from those polls (who knows-the extra 1% or so swing may have been due to the weather?). Most people predicted a narrow tory win here, and labour holding stoke in a fairly lacklustre manner, and both have happened.

    The importance of this result is all about the narrative it creates. The main thing that may change is that some Corbynistas may start to doubt, and perhaps have an eye on Clive Lewis as a potential replacement. I don’t think that is worth doing, but I think it may happen if there are further electoral blows. That may come in May- from memory, I think Miliband did ok in the locals then (although it didn’t translate into that many seats or councils won). If he falls well back from that, then maybe Lewis might be persuaded, after a stalking horse candidate.

    A new leader won’t change much, though (unless it was a right-winger, in which case half the party would leave!).

  32. ‘Then’ = 2013!

  33. Chris R – both Labour & Tory candidates’ husbands work in the nuclear industry.

    But then so do over 12,000 people here.

  34. ”Swings in by-elections are almost always much greater than in General Elections (otherwise there would have been Lib Dem landslides in most General Elections since 1960!).”

    The Lib Dems aren’t at all relevant to this point they do far better in by-election that’s hardly a secret. I meant swings towards the government would be greater/swings towards the opposition would be smaller had a general election been held on the day of said by-election.

    For example if an general election was held in July 1997 there is no way Uxbridge would have convincingly swung to the Tories the way it did in the by-election, similarly Labour might even have won Beckenham in a general election in November 1997 and there is absolutely no way Labour would have won Corby by as much as 21.8% in a general election held in November 2012. Thus it is highly likely in a general election held last Thursday the Tories would have won Copeland by more than they did at the by-election and thus will probably do if polling is similar to it is now in May 2020. The hospital wouldn’t be a main issue but the potential Corbyn becoming Prime Minister would be, even this alone would have caused a better Tory performance/worse Labour one.

  35. Labour have been struggling in the polls over all that time, and they were squeezed in Richmond Park. The one that stands out is Sleaford; a very poor result for Labour. It may be that they were.squeezed between tory and UKIP, but I wouldn’t think that would have been the case to a large degree.

  36. Possibly- but in some ways that might be a good thing for Corbyn (providing it doesn’t happen too quickly). Get rid of a couple of right-wingers, and have an opportunity to claw back some support as Brexit unravels. The first test for the tories will come next month, when May has to exllain why she is going to delay triggering A50. Admittedly, that will boost UKIP & WNV rather than Labour, but it may reduce the gap a little.

  37. This is why I was surprised that Labour didn’t delay the by elections more…the Tories have problems, too, and those will start to show eventually.

  38. Labour could do with an “Omnishambles’ event at the moment. I checked the 2013 results, Labour won the popular vote (narrowly). Corbyn would snap the electorates hands off for that result in May. The problem is that the likely shambles won’t (in the short term at least) benefit Labour.

    The danger for Labour is that enough of them may believe the “its all about Corbyn” spin. It isn’t-not by a long way.

  39. PLOPWELLIAN TORY – I realise that you are clapping your hands about this (despite your rather silly claim to want a ‘strong opposition’) but wiped out in Staffordshire?

    Anyway, I have no doubt that the GE won’t be that much of a disaster; we are speaking from one of the low points for Labour (possibly not the nadir, but they are effectively not being treated like a typical mid-term opposition). Normal rules do not apply!

  40. PLOPWELLIAN TORY – True, but these circumstances are different. Labour are being treated, in many ways, like a governing party, especially over Brexit. Also, it is worth noting that Troughton is anti-Corbyn, and so was effectively pitching with ‘vote for me…my party leader ian’t fit to be PM’. That takes the attention right away from attacking the governing party. Yet Troughton’s stance is criticised nowhere in the press.

  41. There is no dressing up that this is a terrible result for Labour, and a worrying one for the state of our democracy. To blame Corbyn is over-simplistic, and changing him would not help.

  42. Please stop saying that thing about “a strong opposition is key”. You don’t believe it, you are rubbing your hands together as the country continues its dangerous swing rightwards.

  43. PLOPWELLIAN TORY – one would hope that there will be a fairer voting system before then, making it very difficult for anyone to get that complacent in the future.

  44. [email protected] Con and 165 Lab would leave 35 seats between the Northern Ireland parties, the speaker, Green, UKIP, LD, Plaid Cymru and the SNP? Are you predicting a tsunami scaled victory for Ruth Davidson in 2020 on the scale of Surgeons win of 2015?

  45. EcoW – ‘changing him would not help’ [in your opinion]

    Well except for the 31% who said they’d be more likely to vote Labour without Jezza.

    Only 10% would be less likely if he went.

    The swing achieved here would see Labour wiped out in Cumbria and Staffordshire were it replicated in a GE.
    I do think the Conservatives could (if current trends continue) win 400 seats at the next election, with Labour on 165 or fewer.
    February 26th, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Not content with breaking your promise to leave, you are now posting crap like the one above. What total pish will you come away with next?

  47. I think that the Conservatives can and will win seats in Scotland.

    Their best chance lie in the former SNP heartlands in the north, plus ofncourse the border areas.

    The LDs will win some back too I think.

    Sturgeon is a horrific first minister (in my view) and is a one trick pony with a serious issue with English people. Eventually the Scots will get sick of her and want a FM who wants to govern the country in the interests of the people.

    With Scottish Labour having all but folded there’s only two parties who can squeeze them. The Tories and the LDs.

    Areas with fairly high leave % and strong unionist votes can be targeted by May/Davidson, whereas the remain areas will be targeted by Farron.

  48. With posts like that Luke, you clearly don’t live in Scotland.

  49. Areas with fairly high leave % and strong unionist votes can be targeted by May/Davidson, whereas the remain areas will be targeted by Farron.

    And what option did Ruth Davidson support in the EU referendum?

  50. “The LDs will win some back too I think.”

    Currently at 4% in the Scottish opinion polls with one MP who is a self confessed liar.

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