Labour’s shambolic loss in Copeland, a seat held by the party for over 80 years, is evidence of the internal and structural problems which have become manifest in the party in recent years. A Labour heartland, the Cumbrian seat was taken by Conservative MP Trudy Harrison in a win which saw the first time a governing party had taken a seat in a by-election since 1982. The loss proves to be a reflection of the true deterioration of the Labour Party’s core vote and the alarming movement towards a one-party state.
There have been different claims made as to why Labour were unsuccessful in their bid to retain the Copeland seat. One possible explanation is Corbyn’s leadership.
With countless calls for his resignation, it is evident that many blame his anti-nuclear stance, alongside his failure to provide an ambitious, anti-establishment leadership, for the party’s declining fortunes. Another factor lies with the party itself and the ambiguity of its direction. The voice which once struck a chord with the working class now appears to be a distant memory, replaced by a party which is part and parcel of the establishment it set out to oppose.
The loss of a Labour stronghold such as Copeland only serves to prove Labour’s abandonment of its original mission as a voice of the people and its emergence as an option less favourable than the establishment itself.
The key word throughout, however, is opposition – or lack of it. Corbyn and the party are failing to provide a solid opposition to the Tory government, leading to a deficit in Labour support due to the uncertainty of the party’s main aims.
Labour’s ostensible lack of a substantial plan to deal with the problems which it claims have created public dissatisfaction has disillusioned voters. Corbyn seems only to go as far as to blame the Government for the discontent rather than providing a coherent plan to deal with it. This damages the party’s chance of being seen as a capable opposition. The party’s inability to give itself consistent and influential direction has lost voters.
It is evident that the party needs to free itself from its unhealthy obsession with the failures of the age of Blair. A fear of reverting to the politics of Blair and Brown is preventing the creation of a clear Labour strategy, consequently causing a breakdown of the party from within.
A split between ‘Blairites’ and ‘Corbynistas’ is creating friction within the party and halting potential progression. Labour need to unite over key goals in order to regain the voters whom they have lost to their recent division.
It has been argued that if Labour were to take a stronger stance on housing, many more people would be willing to give them their vote, since this is an area in particular on which the Tories need to be challenged.
If Corbyn is unable to take the steps needed for the Labour party to move forward from their current decline, then he should step down as leader. Although he was initially a left-wing beacon of hope for the party after the fiasco that was Ed Miliband, he has failed to deliver a strong and effective leadership at a time when it was most needed.
It is evident that fresh blood is required to reunite the party, enthuse voters and provide a competent opposition to the Conservatives, before British politics becomes a single party affair.
Image: Garry Knight