Copeland by-election: Conservatives secure historic win over Labour in West Cumbria
- Author: Leroy Wright Feb 24, 2017,
Feb 24, 2017, 6:18
UKIP is hoping to capitalise on voters' leanings towards Brexit - the area voted strongly to leave the European Union in June - and is fielding its leader, Paul Nuttall, against Labour's Gareth Snell.
But Nuttall's defeat in Stoke will undermine his oft-stated ambition to replace Labour as the voice of the working classes and will leave many questioning the party's relevance, given its vote share shrank in Copeland.
In Stoke, Labour's majority has been decreasing in recent years, from 19,924 in 1997 to 5,179 in 2015.
Hunt stepped down last month to become the director of the V&A museum in London, citing in his resignation letter his "frustration" at Labour's direction under Corbyn.
Labour was boosted by a disastrous campaign for Nuttall, which saw the Ukip leader forced to correct claims on his own website that "close friends" had died in the Hillsborough disaster.
Ahead of the vote, Snell told AFP he would back his constituents and support kick-starting divorce talks with Brussels.
The Stoke constituency has been held by Labour since 1950, and had been a solid constituency for the party, but a strong Brexit vote during last year's referendum had led to concerns that Labour could be usurped by Ukip, and as last night's results showed Labour's majority halving from its result last year. "That's why they voted for me tonight".
"A city dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit, has once again proved to the world that we are so much more than that". This is a proud city and we stand together.
Apathy runs deep in Stoke where turnout was 38.16 percent, compared to 51.35 percent in Copeland.
It is the first time since 1982 that a governing party has beaten the opposition in a by-election.
Meanwhile the Copeland regional parliamentary by-election concluded with the ruling Conservatives' Trudy Harrison coming ahead of Labour's Gillian Troughton with 13,748 votes against the latter's 11,601 on Friday.
The Conservative candidate Jack Brereton was left in third place in Stoke, with 5,154 votes, although the party may clinch the rural Cumbrian seat of Copeland.
"We've had Labour here for more than 80 years but it's been very clear talking to people throughout this campaign that Jeremy Corbyn doesn't represent them".
Mr Reed, who had been an MP since 2005, resigned to take a job in the nuclear industry.