Britain’s Conservative Party achieved a major upset when it won the Copeland seat in a byelection on Friday, defeating Labour in its stronghold. The result revived demands that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn resign and strengthened the position of Prime Minister Theresa May.
Labour, however, managed to hold on to the Stoke-on-Trent seat.
Corbyn refused to resign, saying he was not to blame for the defeat in Copeland. According to him, Labour’s “message was not enough to win through in Copeland”. He hailed the party’s victory in Stoke-on-Trent.
He said he was disappointed at the Copeland result, but added: “Labour will go further to reconnect with voters and break with the failed political consensus.”
Labour MP John Woodcock, a Corbyn critic, said as things stood the party was on course for a “historic and catastrophic defeat” at the next general election in 2020.
The byelections at Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent were triggered when sitting Labour MPs Tristram Hunt and Jamie Reed stepped down to take up jobs outside politics amid ennui within sections of the Labour Party over Corbyn’s leadership.
Labour had held both seats since their creation. The constituency of Copeland, in Cumbria, northwest England, was created in 1983, and its predecessor constituency, Whitehaven, has returned Labour MPs since 1935.