Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Last Word: It’s ‘game on’

Byelection dates confirmed in Copeland and Stoke, Trump confirmed as president, and Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ speech – Richard Angell looks at the events of the week

The writ will be put down for both Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central on Monday for an byelection on 23 February 2017. My colleague Matthew Faulding has already been on the Labour doorstep in the former, I look forward to joining the Labour and Progress members that are out day-in-day-out very soon.

Labour now has a candidate in Copeland – Gillian Troughton. I have never met her but her record of fighting the BNP, standing up for the nuclear power industry (that Jeremy Corbyn now supports) and our NHS puts Labour on the front foot. Considering the various shenanigans by the leader’s office to try and take charge of the process, local members have won out. I wish Troughton every luck in the world.

The snap election – in just over a month’s time – means Labour has the upper hand in both seats and should be on track for Labour-holds. The United Kingdom Independence party still do not have a postal vote strategy and the Tories are running the NHS into the ground. The winter crisis is unlikely to have passed by mid-February. Hopefully Corbyn’s office will not repeat the same games in Stoke-on-Trent Central, it is ‘game on’ now.

Time to take our opponents seriously

Today’s inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the US should be a wake up call for all of use who care about social justice. ‘The Donald’s’ extraordinary power lies in how unpredictable he can be – he does not play by rules. His tweets have changed investment decisions of big companies and put Wall Street on edge. There is now an app so share owners can receive alerts if any companies they own gets mentioned by the president-elect. These will only have greater purchase when he is settled in the White House.

Today we should decide to not underestimate him, and others we despise in political life. He defeated 16 Republican rivals and the Hillary Clinton machine. That is no small achievement, a different view is just leftist snobbery. His speech at the Lincoln memorial was the shopping list of what he wants to do – we should assume he is going to do it. The bits progressive want to stop will need to picked carefully, involve sophisticated strategies and well deployed tactics. Opposing him outright might be counterproductive.

With expectations so low, how he deals with the unexpected should be a focus. Quickly the Democrats needs to behave like they hold him to high standards not behave like turning up impressive in its own right. This cannot be the case. It might provide great content for Saturday Night Live sketches but would be a ticket to a second term.

As Matthew Doyle has said ‘Britons will rightly prioritise foreign policy, Nato and his relationship with Russia, the Middle East and beyond. However, what really matters is domestic politics.’ This is all about his relationship with Congress. Can he work with them? Control their excesses? Would he veto anti LGBT laws, for example? If his pledge on ‘scrapping Obamacare’ turns out to be reform, that’s one thing, if millions of Americans go back to being uninsured, that’s another.

The Democrats will have to box clever. Like with the Brexit vote here, the scary bit comes if the so-called ‘naysayers’ are proved right. What if better trade deals are not possible, that immigration cannot be controlled – who will get the blame? Take him seriously otherwise the Democrats could own the blame and Trump – in four years time – will still holding the keys.

Hope Not Hate

If you, like me, are watching the inauguration take place and feeling powerless or have spent the week shouting at the television over Theresa May’s plans for a hard Brexit – use this as a rally cry. To sort out our party, to get social democratic ideas on the front foot again and stand up and be counted. One first step could be to donate to Hope Not Hate. They run the best campaigning in the UK against hate crime and hate perpetrators. They are strategic, intelligence led and effective – more importantly they deserve our support: donate now.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets @RichardAngell

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Richard Angell

is director of Progress


  • Richard, can you please explain the purpose of your nasty vacuous piece in the Telegraph? It certainly confirmed your hope that Labour loses the by-election, and I’m not sure that is compatible with party membership. Very depressing stuff.

  • The main issue at Copeland is the NHS. People whose parliamentary vote is determined by being Leave are already UKIP, in the way that people whose parliamentary vote is determined by being Remain are already Lib Dems.

    If UKIP did not win Stoke Central, then it would be finished. If the Conservatives did not win exceedingly marginal Copeland, then Theresa May would finished, and Article 50 this side of the 2020 Election would be finished with her, regardless of what Jeremy Corbyn thought on the matter. But if Labour held on, then it would be the Labour Right, at least in anything like its Blairite form, that would be finished.

    These results should be very well worth staying up for.

  • There is something going on in the UK at the moment: a rejection of the Thatcher/Blair political consensus being the most important development. That’s why I think Tory-lite approaches have been rejected so resoundingly by Labour’s membership. Jeremy represents the only real way forward. Let’s all unite in Stoke and Copeland behind him!

  • Richard, can you give the source of the report you use in the Telegraph about Corbyn’s office seeking to impose a candidate in Copeland please. Since a local person was chosen it seems Corbyn’s office is less ruthless than Tony’s or Gordon’s. After all they did impose the Milibands, Ms Flint, Tristram, Mr Ball, Ms Berger and so many others on local parties. I am sure you objected to all those shenanigans.

    You really should try to put the vitriol back in the bottle.

    Hope to see you in Copeland and/or Stoke Central. I am sure your satnav will show you how to get up to the Midlands and North West.

  • Where has this delusion come from, that Copeland and Stoke Central are safe Labour seats? In 2015, the Labour majority over the Conservatives at Copeland was 2,564, while the Labour majority over UKIP at Stoke Central was 5,179. The by-election at Copeland was already being fought on the NHS, which is the biggest issue there. Or, indeed, anywhere else at the moment, and possibly always. UKIP’s selection of Paul Nuttall means that the by-election at Stoke Central will now be fought on the NHS, too.

    Brexit is just not what parliamentary elections are about, have been about since 1983, or ever will be about. That was why there was a referendum. Labour and the Conservatives both campaigned for Remain, but they both accept the result, so there is really nothing to discuss there. At least until such time as the huge Remainer majority of Conservative MPs removes the current Leader, whom they had thought was one of them.

    The Remainers on the Labour benches have already staged a Leadership Election in which one of the few policy differences between the candidates was that one of them wanted a second referendum. The one who had called for Article 50 on the day after the referendum beat him by a mile, and Labour now campaigns on the NHS, as the electorate always wishes. Of course, inveterate Remainers can vote Lib Dem. And they will. But that is a whole other story. The Conservatives would of course survive a failure to take Copeland, although Theresa May shouldn’t and quite possibly wouldn’t. But Stoke Central is UKIP’s last chance. If it doesn’t win there, then it’s over.

    National polls have nothing to do with anything. Britain or even England has nothing resembling a national political culture. It never has had, and it is now further away from that than ever. If the Conservatives do not win Copeland, then they cannot hope to win any seat that they did not win in 2015. The loss of the tiniest handful of those seats would result in a hung Parliament, but the Conservatives are on course to lose scores of them to the Lib Dems in the Remain heartlands of the South.

    And if UKIP does not win Stoke Central, then so much for Paul Nuttall, unable to win a working-class seat that was won twice by Tristram Hunt. At that point, UKIP, which is already nearly bankrupt, ought to be dissolved, and probably will be. Meanwhile, since Jeremy Corbyn had become Leader, Labour would have successfully defended seven seats in the House of Commons. Seven. As many as Nigel Farage has sought without success.

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