2017 Copeland by-election

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2017 Copeland by-election

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Copeland constituency
  First party Second party
Candidate Trudy Harrison Gillian Troughton
Party Conservative Labour
Popular vote 13,748 11,601
Percentage 44.2% 37.3%
Swing Increase8.5% Decrease4.9%

  Third party Fourth party
  Blank Blank
Candidate Rebecca Hanson Fiona Mills
Party Liberal Democrats UKIP
Popular vote 2,252 2,025
Percentage 7.2% 6.5%
Swing Increase3.8% Decrease9.0%

MP before election

Jamie Reed

Elected MP

Trudy Harrison

There was a by-election in the British parliamentary constituency of Copeland on 23 February 2017 (the same day as the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election), following the resignation of Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Jamie Reed. Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison gained the seat from Labour, the first gain for a governing party in a by-election since 1982.


By-election 2017: Copeland[1][2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Trudy Harrison 13,748 44.2 Increase 8.5
Labour Gillian Troughton 11,601 37.3 Decrease 4.9
Liberal Democrats Rebecca Hanson 2,252 7.2 Increase 3.8
UKIP Fiona Mills 2,025 6.5 Decrease 9.0
Independent Michael Guest 811 2.6 N/A
Green Jack Lenox 515 1.7 Decrease 1.3
Independent Roy Ivinson 116 0.4 N/A
Majority 2,147 6.9
Turnout 31,108 51.3 Decrease 12.5
Conservative gain from Labour Swing Increase 6.7

This was the first time since 1935 that Labour had failed to win the constituency or its predecessor, Whitehaven. It was also the first gain for a governing party at a UK by-election since the 1982 Mitcham and Morden by-election, where the incumbent Labour MP had sought re-election after defecting to the Social Democratic Party against the background of the Falklands War. It was the largest increase in the share of the vote of a governing party in a by-election since the Kingston upon Hull North by-election in January 1966.[3] According to Matt Singh of psephology website Number Cruncher Politics, it was the first directly comparable by-election gain for a governing party since the 1878 by-election in Worcester.[4][5] By this, Singh meant that the governing party gained a seat:

The poor result for Labour triggered fresh criticism of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the party, with calls for him to stand down as leader.[6][7][8]


The incumbent Labour MP Jamie Reed announced his intention to resign on 21 December 2016[9] in order to become the new Head of Development & Community Relations at Sellafield Ltd,[10] where he had worked before becoming a politician. He was a critic of the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a reportedly unpopular politician in the constituency.[11][12] Reed's resignation took effect on 23 January 2017.[13]

The election was held with the Conservatives considerably ahead of Labour in national opinion polls.[14]

Copeland and Whitehaven, the predecessor seat, had been represented by Labour since 1935. Although Reed supported remaining within the European Union, his constituency voted to leave in the June 2016 EU referendum. Because the constituency is not coterminous with any local authority, the exact result is unknown. Chris Hanretty, a Reader in Politics at the University of East Anglia, estimated through a demographic model that in Copeland, 60% of voters voted 'Leave'.[15][16]



Gillian Troughton, a Borough and County Councillor, was selected as the Labour Party candidate on 19 January.[17] During the EU referendum, Troughton had been an active Remain campaigner.[18] The short list to be Labour's candidate, announced on 12 January, had included Barbara Cannon, a former Borough and County Councillor, Rachel Holliday, founder of Calderwood House hostel, and Troughton. Long-listed candidates had included Thomas Docherty, who was the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife from 2010-5 and had previously applied to be the Copeland candidate, before losing to Reed.[19] Andrew Gwynne, shadow cabinet minister without portfolio, was Labour's campaign manager.[20]


On 25 January, Trudy Harrison was selected as the party's candidate. Harrison lives locally in the village of Bootle and has worked at Sellafield.[21] The Conservatives highlighted lower unemployment locally and improved standards in local schools.[22][23] Possible Conservative candidate choices had included Stephen Haraldsen, their candidate in 2015, and Chris Whiteside, a former parliamentary candidate and their candidate in the 2015 Copeland mayoral election.[11]

UK Independence Party[edit]

The UK Independence Party's (UKIP) West Cumbria branch selected Fiona Mills as their candidate, a local National Health Service (NHS) worker, member of UKIP's National Executive Committee and county chairwoman, who had stood as the party's candidate in Carlisle in the 2015 general election.[24][25][26][27][28] UKIP leader Paul Nuttall ruled himself out of standing in this by-election, initially to focus on a potential by-election in Leigh,[29] then to contest the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.[30]

Liberal Democrats[edit]

The Liberal Democrat candidate was confirmed on 12 January 2017 as Cockermouth Town Councillor, Rebecca Hanson.[31] She highlighted Brexit and the NHS.[32]

Green Party[edit]

On 24 January 2017, the Green Party announced Jack Lenox, a local software engineer, as their candidate for the by-election.[33] Given the party's opposition to nuclear power and the importance of the nuclear industry in the constituency, their campaign attracted more publicity than normal.[34] They also said that their candidate would be contesting an "anti-nuclear and anti-poverty campaign".[35]


Two independent candidates also stood. Copeland borough and Whitehaven town councillor Michael Guest announced his candidacy on 31 January, saying he was aiming to represent people "dissatisfied with party politics".[36] Whitehaven market stallholder Roy Ivinson, who also submitted nomination papers, had previously stood for seats in the area on a platform of stopping global warming.[37]


An early issue in the campaign was plans to downgrade maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. The plans were defended by the Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May.[12] In response to Labour criticism, the Conservative campaign said that decisions about local hospitals were the responsibility of the local NHS trust.[27]

Trade unions claimed that government cuts to Sellafield's employee pension scheme could "threaten the Conservatives' chances of winning the by-election".[38]

The Conservatives focused on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his long-standing opposition to nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The constituency contains the Sellafield nuclear decommissioning plant and nuclear submarines are built in nearby Barrow, and Conservative election literature highlighted the potential risks to the Cumbrian economy of Labour policies.[27] Labour campaigners responded that the views of party leader Corbyn do not represent the views of the party.[27] The Conservatives also campaigned on a pro-Brexit line, suggesting that voting Conservative would ensure that Brexit is delivered, whereas voting Labour would encourage Labour to "ignore and forget ... the EU referendum".[39][40]

It was reported that the Labour candidate had refused requests for interviews from Channel 4, whilst all other major candidates had accepted the request.[41]

A storm, named Doris, hit the constituency on polling day, which some commentators suggested might reduce turnout,[42] though in the event the turnout was relatively high for a Westminster by-election.[43][44]

2015 result[edit]

General election 2015: Copeland[45][46]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Jamie Reed 16,750 42.3 Decrease 3.7
Conservative Stephen Haraldsen 14,186 35.8 Decrease 1.3
UKIP Michael Pye 6,148 15.5 Increase 13.2
Liberal Democrats Danny Gallagher 1,368 3.5 Decrease 6.7
Green Allan Todd 1,179 3.0 Increase 2.1
Majority 2,564 6.5 Decrease 2.4
Turnout 39,631 63.8 Decrease 3.8
Labour hold Swing Decrease 1.2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Copeland by-election: Candidates list". BBC News. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Statement of Persons Nominated" (PDF). Copeland Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Tories in historic by-election Copeland win as Labour holds Stoke". BBC News. 24 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b Singh, Matt (21 February 2017). "Copeland turning blue would be more historic than you think". Number Cruncher Politics.
  5. ^ "Reality Check: Has a governing party gained a by-election since 1878? - BBC News". Bbc.co.uk. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Labour ousted by Tories in Copeland byelection but sees off Ukip in Stoke | Politics". The Guardian. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  7. ^ Foster, Alice. "Who could replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader? Latest odds and predictions | Politics | News". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  8. ^ Laura Hughes, Political Correspondent (24 February 2017). "Tories take Copeland: Jeremy Corbyn refuses to stand down as Union boss calls on Labour leader to accept responsibility for historic defeat". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  9. ^ Pidd, Helen (21 December 2016). "Corbyn critic quits as Labour MP, triggering tight byelection race". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  10. ^ Simons, Ned (21 December 2016). "Labour MP Jamie Reed Quits Parliament Triggering By-Election In Copeland". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b Payne, Adam (29 December 2016). "'We don't do Corbyn here': Labour activists fear defeat in Copeland by-election". Business Insider UK. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  12. ^ a b Sparrow, Andres (23 December 2016). "Who will win the Copeland byelection?". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  13. ^ "Manor of Northstead: Jamie Reed". HM Treasury. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  14. ^ Craig, Jon (3 January 2017). "Labour election majority 'currently unthinkable'". Sky News. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  15. ^ "Revised estimates of leave vote in Westminster constituencies". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  16. ^ Singh, Matt (21 December 2016). "Copeland by-election: Is a "once in a blue moon" result on the cards?". Number Cruncher Politics. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Labour shortlist for Copeland revealed". The Whitehaven News. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Labour name their candidate for Copeland by-election". North West Evening Mail. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  19. ^ Payne, Adam (5 January 2017). "Labour set to reject big name candidate in Copeland by-election battle". Business Insider. Insider Inc. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Gwynne pledges fightback as Corbyn asks him to spearhead Copeland by-election bid". Labour List. 3 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  21. ^ "Trudy Harrison selected as Conservative candidate for Copeland". Cumbria Crack. Archived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  22. ^ "A big by-election test for May. The Labour MP for marginal Copeland resigns". Conservative Home. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  23. ^ "Local results suggest Copeland by-election will be a challenge for the Conservatives". Conservative Home. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  24. ^ "UKIP announces local NHS worker as by-election candidate". ITV.com. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  25. ^ "UKIP picks county chairman as Copeland candidate". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  26. ^ "Local NHS worker selected as UKIP candidate for the Copeland by-election". ukip.org. 20 January 2017. Archived from the original on 24 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  27. ^ a b c d Hawkins, Ross (12 January 2017). "Copeland by-election goes nuclear". BBC News. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Labour to decide on Copeland by-election candidate tonight". News & Star. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  29. ^ "UKIP on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  30. ^ "Paul Nuttall 'will be UKIP candidate' for Stoke by-election". ITV. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  31. ^ "Lib Dems announce MP candidate for Copeland". News and Star. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  32. ^ Lindsay, Caron (12 January 2017). "Could Rebecca Hanson be fighting a long game in Copeland?". Lib Dem Voice. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  33. ^ "Green Party announces anti-nuclear Copeland by-election candidate". Green Party. 24 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  34. ^ Powell, Alex (28 December 2016). "The Greens must stand in the Copeland by-election". Bright Green. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  35. ^ "Green Party to stand in Copeland by-election". Green Party. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  36. ^ Clarke, Andrew (31 January 2017). "West Cumbrian councillor aims to be Copeland's next MP". News & Star. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  37. ^ "IT can't be, surely? A truthful non-political would-be politician at election time?". Cumberland & Westmorland Herald. 17 April 2015. Archived from the original on 14 February 2020. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  38. ^ Pidd, Helen (28 December 2016). "Sellafield unrest could dent Tory byelection chances, unions warn". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  39. ^ "12 Negotiating Objectives for Brexit". Conservative Party. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  40. ^ "Tories and Labour pick candidates for Copeland and Stoke byelections". The Guardian. Press Association. 25 January 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  41. ^ "Copeland by-election candidate shuns Channel 4 reporter". News & Star. 27 April 2017.
  42. ^ Elgot, Jessica (21 February 2017). "Storm Doris could blow away Labour byelection hopes, MPs fear". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  43. ^ "Copeland by-election turnout exceeds expectations". ITV News. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  44. ^ "By-election turnout since 1997". UK Political Info. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  45. ^ "Election Data 2015". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  46. ^ "Copeland". BBC News. Retrieved 11 May 2015.

External links[edit]