Copeland by-election: Three major problems for Labour

By Iain Watson
Political correspondent, BBC News, Whitehaven


Labour's failure to retain Copeland for the first time since the seat was created highlights three interlinked problems for the party.

The most serious is trust - or lack of it.

Labour insiders tell me they "got Jeremy to the right place on nuclear" - by not just committing to retaining the industry but also no longer opposing new capacity.

Yet very few voters here in Whitehaven that I spoke to this morning believed him - and some were still unaware of his position.

The second problem, though, is with Jeremy Corbyn himself.

Even some left-wing MPs tell me his leadership came up completely unprompted on the doorsteps. So messenger and message aren't fully trusted.

The third problem, though, is that while Labour is in opposition nationally - and Jeremy Corbyn says he will take on the political establishment - in areas which the party has controlled for decades it is seen as part of that establishment.

Voter after voter said to me "look at the town centre here" [pictured above] with pound shops, charity shops and bookies.

"Labour has done nothing for this area, we need new blood," said one. "I am 80 and Labour has been in charge all that time - we need a change," said another.

And that change was from the opposition to the government, standing conventional political wisdom on its head.

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