Local elections 2017: Candidate who lost seat Labour considered safe voted off council as well

Gillian Troughton loses her Howgate ward seat just months after losing the parliamentary by-election in the historical Labour area

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Indy Politics

Gillian Troughton, the defeated Labour candidate in the recent Copeland parliamentary by-election, has also lost her council seat in a night of electoral blows for the embattled party.

The retired GP is one of 125 victims of a collapse in votes for the party in many of its former heartlands as the Conservatives surge ahead.

Labour had controlled the area since 1935 but this was not enough to stop Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison winning the February election by 2,147 votes. 

The by-election had been called following the resignation of Jamie Reed, a persistent critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who stepped down to take a job in the private sector.

The loss of the seat was blamed on Mr Corbyn’s leadership - in particular, his opposition to nuclear power, as the area is dependent on the Sellafield nuclear processing plant - and the area's vote for Leave. 

The independent elected mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie, said the loss of the parliamentary seat was not Ms Troughton’s fault as she was a good local candidate and councillor.

Instead he said there was an anti-Corbyn feeling among Labour supporters who voted against the party in a bid to oust him.

In a fresh defeat, Ms Troughton lost her seat in the ward of Howgate on Cumbria County Council to the Conservative candidate, Martin Barbour, by 57 votes. 

The local election night has been “tough” for Labour and many are predicting that it will spell doom for the general election which is due to be held on 8 June.

Stephen Kinnock, a Welsh Labour MP who has been critical of Mr Corbyn, told the BBC the results were “disastrous” and party needed to recognise that they had “a mountain to climb” in the next five weeks if it has a chance of gaining ground in the election.

He said if the party wanted to win the general election, it was “not good enough” not be doing this badly in local elections held just weeks before.

The Aberavon MP said the reason they had managed to do well in Welsh cities like Cardiff and Swansea was because of the strong leadership of Welsh First Minister Carwen Jones rather than the input of the national party.

But the leadership has remained defiant with shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told BBC Radio 4 that it was the media’s fault that the party was struggling.

He claimed the election was not a “total wipeout” and said Mr Corbyn was only unpopular with voters because he had not been giving a fair hearing. 

He said once the people saw what an “honest, decent and principled” leader Mr Corbyn can be they will vote for him.

This fresh local election loss is the third in a row for which is unprecedented for any opposition party in UK history.