- Conservatives. The governing party’s share of the vote rose by 2.1 per cent in Stoke and a healthy 8.5 per cent in Copeland. The latter result marks the first by-election gain by a governing party since the Tories gained Mitcham and Morden in 1982. And the swing to the party in Copeland was bigger than that currently taking place nationally in the polls. No doubt about it: that result is a corker for the Conservatives and a personal triumph for Theresa May.
- Labour. The votes of the main parties didn’t move much in Stoke. So that Labour held the seat will be spun by Team Corbyn as a good sign for him. But the party’s vote fell none the less – ominous for a party that needs a swing to win nationally in 2020. And Copeland? Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, Corbyn. There will be talk of another leadership challenge – and perhaps more than talk. Even Labour’s warning in Copeland that May plans a King Herod hire for local children’s services fell flat.
- UKIP. The party’s vote dropped in Copeland by more than the Conservative vote rose. In Stoke, support for both parties increased – though the share of none of the main three parties changed all that much. So the results might be read as a mixed night for the purple party were it not for two factors. First, it needs to do much, much better if it is really seeking to displace Labour. Second, Paul Nuttall gambled – and lost.
- Liberal Democrats. Their vote was up by 5.7 per cent in Stoke and by 7.2 per cent in Copeland. That’s a move in the right direction for them, but it won’t frighten the horses. If the 48 per cent decide to rally behind Tim Farron in 2020 – a bit of a long shot – one can’t say that yesterday provides much notice of it. Those local Liberal Democrats hopes of coming second in Stoke were certainly dashed.
A footnote on turnout. It was 38.2 per cent in Stoke and 51.4 per cent in Copeland. That’s not at all bad by the standard of recent by-elections. The Copeland result is at the upper end of the scale. The Stoke one is best compared with other Labour-held inner city seats.