Disaster for Jeremy Corbyn as Tories stun Labour to win Copeland by-election
Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership has been dealt a major blow after the Tories pulled off a massive shock to win the Copeland by-election.
The historic result was the first time the Government had beaten an opposition party in a by-election in 35 years.
Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison won with 13,748 votes, giving her a majority of 2,147 over Labour's Gillian Troughton.
Lib Dem Rebecca Hanson came third with 2,252 votes, just ahead of Ukip's Fiona Mills on 2,025.
Jamie Reed – who stood down as the local MP last month to take a job in the nuclear industry – had won the seat for Labour at the last general election with a majority of 2,564.
In her victory speech, Ms Harrison said: "It's been very clear talking to people throughout this campaign that Jeremy Corbyn doesn't represent them.
"They want a party which is on the side of ordinary working people, which will respect the way we voted in the referendum and which will build a country which represents everyone. That's why they voted for me tonight."
There was better news for Labour in last night's other by-election in Stoke-on-Trent Central, where the party managed to see off the challenge of Ukip leader Paul Nuttall to win it by 2,621 votes.
But there is no doubt that losing in Copeland – a seat Labour has held since it was created in 1983 – is a hammer blow for Mr Corbyn.
His initial reluctance to support a project to build a new nuclear power plant in the constituency was damaging to Labour's campaign.
Labour insiders have admitted that the issue of his leadership came up repeatedly on the doorstep, with many voters saying they could not support the party while he is in charge.
The defeat also calls into question Labour's entire election strategy, as the party made the NHS, and in particular the threat to maternity and A&E services at West Cumberland Hospital, the central theme of its campaign.
Reacting to both results, the defiant Labour leader insisted his party "will go further to reconnect with voters".
He said: "Labour's victory in Stoke is a decisive rejection of Ukip's politics of division and dishonesty. But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland.
"In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment.
"To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus."
Labour MPs reacted to the result with a mixture of disappointment and anger.
Mr Corbyn will attempt to get back on the front foot this morning with a speech in London on Brexit.
He will accuse Theresa May of trying to divide the country and of "turning all of us into a Tory bargaining chip" by threatening to slash corporate tax rates if Brussels refuses to give the UK a favourable deal.