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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Copeland - Labour, You Have A Problem

If ever a double-edged sword of a Christmas surprise were to be invented by the most cynical of political observers, they could manage little better than the news this morning that semi-detached Labour MP Jamie Reed is to resign his seat in order to join the nuclear industry in pursuit of More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now. The party will be glad to see him go. They will not relish the mess he has left them.
Reed has spent the year-and-a-bit since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader doing little more than whinging. Whether he was pining for the days of Tone is not known: the bawling and blubbering has by now been screened out by most of his colleagues. But that is not what will concern Labour HQ: rather, they will have seen Reed’s 2015 majority of just over 2,500, a largely rural constituency, and the potential for electoral disaster.

Reed represented Copeland, which is basically the town of Whitehaven, plus a significant part of the Lake District National Park. Boundary changes prior to the 2010 General Election added the town of Keswick, an area of Very Few Natural Labour Voters. The area voted 62% to Leave the EU, although when rural voters see that the trees on which farm subsidies grow may not be exclusively British, this might change.
Jamie Reed - looking to do some damage

The constituency has some similarities with Crewe and Nantwich: one significantly sized Labour-voting town and a largely rural Tory heartland. The Tories may already be asking Eric Pickles about his successful management of the 2008 by-election campaign there; Pickles was savvy enough not to be fazed by Gwyneth Dunwoody’s post-1997 majorities, but looked back to 1992, when she scraped home by just under 2,700 votes.

She might have lost had the Tories not fielded the local Prince of Darkness Brian Silvester, now reduced to a comedy side-show as a UKIP parish councillor. But the Tories are not going to field a clown like Silvester in Copeland. They will already be looking for a mainstream, Eurosceptic, pro-nuclear, pro farming lobby, and above all experienced politician and campaigner. And Labour will be bracing for trouble.
The Copeland constituency - lots of rural. And nuclear

Copeland is the constituency that includes the Sellafield complex. This provides a significant number of jobs - even more importantly since the steel industry in nearby Workington employs far fewer nowadays, and others, like Leyland Buses and Trucks, are long gone. Labour has a leader with a clearly sceptical stance on things nuclear. Corbyn will be portrayed during the upcoming campaign as anti-Sellafield.

The prize for the Tories will be the first time a Government party has taken a seat off the opposition since 1982 - and even that (Mitcham and Morden) was an exceptional case, a Labour to SDP defector losing during the Falklands conflict. UKIP will try hard, but Paul “Bad Bootle Meff” Nuttall probably won’t play well here. The Lib Dems’ leader has the seat next door, but they would have to come from a long way back to pull this one off.

Unless Labour can counter the inevitable Tory “Corbyn hates nuclear” attacks, they are looking at a loss that would damage them grievously. Jamie Reed probably gamed it that way. His determination to damage Corbyn may be about to bear its poisoned fruit.


Anonymous said...

Jamie Reed jumped before he was pushed. There's absolutely no way his constituency party would allow him to stand again under the Labour banner.

If Labour lose the seat, the excuse will be that Reed was such a useless whinger that he poisoned the people of Copeland against Labour. His behaviour over the past couple of years means Corbyn won't be blamed for a loss.

SimonB said...

A credible opposition should still have a good chance here. However Corbyn's invisible man act is going to fail. Momentum will do nothing. Hopefully that will be the end of Corbyn's useless strategy.

Alan Clifford said...

The problem for Reed is this: If the nuclear "option" is ever used, Copeland will be one of the first targets, as will Aldermaston in Berkshire.

After which there will be nobody left to worry about the affect on the environment or the system of government.

But I doubt of any of this has even crossed what passes for Reed's "mind."

Anonymous said...

Reed and Sellafield go back a long way. His going back there isn't a shock to many.

"Before election as an MP he worked as a Press Officer at Sellafield, a nuclear fuel reprocessing and nuclear decommissioning site, in his constituency, and had served on Copeland Borough Council." Wiki

Anonymous said...

People will not vote Labour here because of Corbyn. Period.

I note with interest however the tome of your article, I always thought the "kinder, gentler politics" would be about issues not personalities. Your article is typical of Corbyn-supporting blog posts; full of personal vitriol and personal hate. This is why Reed is leaving, and doubtless why other Labour MPs will follow him. Perpetual Tory government thanks to Corbyn.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the person posting about 'Corbyn supporting' should read back through the archive of Zelo Street?

And perhaps read back through the archive of MP Reed's vitriol on Twitter?

And so farewell Jamie. You won't be missed as a Labour MP, I'm sure the nuclear industry will pay you handsomely to do its bidding.

By the way, what does happen to all that nuclear waste 'processed' at Sellafield?