Former Labour MP Chris Mole worries for future after by-election defeat
PUBLISHED: 12:31 24 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:09 24 February 2017
Former Ipswich MP Chris Mole has warned his party that it needs to rethink its policies after this week's by-election results.
Labour lost the Copeland by-election to the Conservatives after holding the seat and its predecessors since the 1930s.
It was the first time the ruling party had won a seat off the opposition in a by-election since 1982 – and on that occasion the vote was split by the arrival of the Social Democratic Party.
Mr Mole, who was Labour MP for Ipswich from 2001 to 2010, said: “The Labour Party should not be losing any by-election in the middle of a parliament to the government.
“This is a quite exceptional result and while there are particular factors (Copeland is home to the Sellafield nuclear plant) we simply should not be losing seats like this.
“I think the party’s leadership needs to look very hard at how it deals with the concerns of the voters who have supported it for many years.”
He was concerned that without a change in the general direction from the top of the party that there would be little chance of winning back power at the next general election.
While the number of Labour Party members has increased since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader in September 2015, the number of votes and the support it is showing in opinion polls has fallen.
In the Richmond by-election at the end of 2016, the number of Labour votes was smaller than the number of Labour members in the constituency.
Former Labour candidate for South Suffolk Jane Basham said the important thing was for all wings of the party to unite around a set of policies.
But she did not think the leadership of the party was the issue: “I do not think you can blame Jeremy Corbyn for what happened in Copeland.
“You have to look at what has happened to the Labour vote in every election since 1997 – it has fallen at every election.”
She said this had been accelerated because “Tory-light” policies had been adopted along with unpopular foreign interventions.
And she would like to see the left and centre left of the party coming together and working with other progressive groups including the Green Party to push through popular policies in the future.