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As Scottish Labour votes for federalism...

Tories’ historic by-election win puts Corbyn on ropes

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn: by-election blow (photo by Terry Murden – DB Services)

Labour suffered a damaging by-election defeat to the Conservatives last night that left the party examining its long term prospects.

Labour comfortably held Stoke-on-Trent Central but the Conservatives won the Copeland seat in north west England, overturning a seat held by Labour since 1935.

It was a stunning success for the Conservatives, marking the first gain for a ruling party at a by-election in 35 years.

UKIP’s failure to make a breakthrough raised doubts that it could capitalise on the Brexit decision although its leader Paul Nuttall made gains on Labour in Stoke.

It has been a safe Labour seat since 1950, but the party’s support for staying in the EU put it at odds with 70% of voters in the constituency who backed Leave.

Trudy Harrison won the Copeland seat with 13,748 votes to Labour’s Gillian Troughton’s 11,601.

Ms Harrison hailed the victory – the first by-election gain by a governing party since 1982 – as “a truly historic event”.

Labour’s Gareth Snell held Stoke-on-Trent Central with 7,853 votes, seeing off a challenge from Mr Nuttall who received 5,233.

Mr Nuttall was defiant despite the failure to secure a victory that his predecessor Nigel Farage said was vital for the party.

“UKIP’s time will come … there’s a lot more to come from us, we’re not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere,” he said after the result. He claimed it only ranked 72 on UKIP’s list of target seats.

The Conservatives victory in Copeland will put more pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and will be a hot topic at the three-day Scottish Labour conference which opens today in Perth.

Mr Corbyn said in a statement after the result: “To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus.”

Academic and polling expert John Curtice said: “We’re left with an opposition that is losing votes in by-election after by-election … all very different parts of England but the message to Labour is the same.

“Meanwhile UKIP are now facing the possibility that the rewards of the fact that the majority of the country voted to leave may go to the Conservative Party.”

Scottish Labour’s conference votes for federalism

The Scottish Labour Conference today backed federalism in a historic vote.

Party members and trade unionists voted in favour of the establishment of a People’s Constitutional Convention, following calls by leader Kezia Dugdale for a federal UK and a new Act of Union.

The vote is the culmination of months of work by Mr Dugdale and Mr Corbyn.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: “This is a historic vote as it commits Labour to Scotland remaining in a federal UK.  

“Our call for a reformed UK isn’t about constitutional tinkering – this is about meeting the demand for change.

“One message from the independence and EU referendums was that people wanted more control over their lives. That’s why Labour’s plan for a People’s Constitutional Convention and a federal UK will transform where political and economic power will lie in our country.

“Labour is calling on the SNP to take ‘indyref2’ off the agenda and focus on getting the best Brexit deal for Scotland. We know that together we are stronger when the nations of our United Kingdom work together rather than split apart.

“But neither will we support the Tory status quo. Only Labour has a positive plan to reform our nation and invest in our valued public services.”

Westminster spokesman Ian Murray led a debate in Perth Concert Hall.

Kezia Dugdale speaking

Kezia Dugdale (photo by Terry Murden)

Delegates will hear speeches from Miss Dugdale, Mr Corbyn, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley, UK Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, and members of the Shadow Cabinet.

In his speech to conference today, Ian Murray said: “Our vision – the Scottish Labour vision – is for a radical reshaping of the UK that offers a post-Brexit solution that delivers for the four corners of these islands.

“It is time for a new Act of Union – it has been 300 years since the last one – one that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

“The federal solution we propose would renew and refresh our ailing democracy, and give a voice to those who feel they have none.

“It would allow us to mitigate the failures of the past, and lay the foundations for a better future.

“And it would uphold the democratic will of the Scottish people: a strong Scotland in a secure United Kingdom, with a close relationship with Europe.

“The vision before you today is one of hope and optimism.  It will mean that every part of the UK, and every part of Scotland is contributing to our success.

“And it will re-forge our democracy and our society and safeguard it for the future.

“This is an historic moment for our party. The party of devolution – now ready to seize the mantle as the party of federalism.”

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