Copeland by-election: Who Labour blamed and why

From Blair to Blairites to the political establishment, the list of everyone the Labour leadership has so far blamed for its defeat in Copeland, other than itself

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Indy Politics

It was a truly historic night for Labour, where black was white, defeats were victories and right was wrong. Even in these remarkable times, the night when, according to Jeremy Corbyn, the people voted to reject the 'political establishment' by voting for the Tories in a never-before-unsafe Labour seat, deserves to be remembered.

Here we round up the very best of Labour reaction to their first defeat in Copeland, or its predecessor Whitehaven, since 1931.

John McDonnell (blame: Blair and Blairites)

“We can’t have a situation like we did last week where Tony Blair comes out and attacks his own party, Peter Mandelson as well.

"The situation is this: you learn lessons from these things and one of the lessons you learn is people will not vote for a divided party.

"The last 18 months, 20 months, we’ve been involved in two leadership elections so understandably in a leadership election those divisions will come out," (he told ITV).

Later, Mr McDonnell told Sky News: "We’ve lost one by-election in very unique circumstances. The Prime Minister is still in her honeymoon period. And Labour has been divided.

"Now, you’ll see the Labour Party united and the Conservative Party ripping themselves apart over the Brexit negotiations."

Momentum (blame: no one. This was in fact a victory)

"The sceptics wrote us off in Stoke but we proved them wrong. We beat them with our energy, passion and determination.

"The Tories may have taken Copeland, but I’ve seen everything we need to win across the country right here in Stoke these last few weeks.

"If we build on the momemtum from this win, we can beat UKIP and the Tories across the country."

(Damian Bailey, Momentum activist, in official statement)

Emily Thornberry MP (blame: the media / 'fake news')

The Shadow Foreign Secretary told Sky News: “Word had got out that Jeremy wasn’t in favour of nuclear power. That isn’t true. That’s what you call fake news."

Jeremy Corbyn has campaigned against nuclear weapons and nuclear power for thirty years, but eventually came out in support of 'new nuclear' three weeks before the referendum.

Ian Lavery MP, and new Corbyn campaign chief (blame: unspecified, but not Corbyn)

"Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most popular politicians in the country. This wasn't in any way, shape of form an election on the leadership of the Labour Party."

Film director Ken Loach (blame: Blair and Brown)

The loss of Copeland was the fault of the years of Blair, Brown and their apologists in the PLP. The politics of exploiting the working class has led, surprise surprise, to an alienated working class. Those who should represent them but chose not to are the most excoriated and despised of all.

Paul Mason (blame: Outgoing Labour MP Jamie Reed)

The Marxist journalist and Corbyn backer wrote on his blog: "For socialists in the Labour Party it will be a relief that the Blairite plan to stage two electoral disasters on one night failed. Nobody can claim losing Copeland was Jeremy Corbyn’s “fault”: the fault lies with the careerist right-winger who abandoned the seat in mid-session to take a better job."

Ken Livingstone (blame: Blair and Brown)

"This isn’t a decline that happened under Jeremy. It’s been happening for twenty years. You hear it from ordinary people on the street asking, ‘What did the last Labour government do for me?'" (he told Sky News)

Jeremy Corbyn (blame: the political establishment)

"The political establishment has let down Copeland and Stoke, who have seen their industries gutted, living standards stagnate and hope of a better future for their children and grandchildren decline.

"Whatever the results, the Labour Party - and our mass membership - must go further to break the failed political consensus, and win power to rebuild and transform Britain," on Facebook as the polls closed.

Labour MP Cat Smith: (blame: no one. Defeat was an 'incredible achievement.')

"To be 15 to 18 points behind in the polls and to push the Tories to within 2,000 votes is an incredible achievement," to ITV News.