LONDON — The Conservative Party is odds on to pull off a remarkable victory in the Copeland by-election on Thursday night.
Tory candidate Trudy Harrison is valued at 1/3 to wrestle the west Cumbrian seat from Labour’s grasp tonight, according to Ladbrokes betting odds. This translates to a 75% chance of victory.
Labour has held Copeland for nearly a century but declining support for the party in the Leave-voting seat means candidate Gillian Troughton is currently tipped to finish second place (9/4).
The significance of a Tory victory in Copeland cannot be overstated. History tells us that ruling parties almost never gain seats in midterm by-elections. The last time a governing party made a gain was Mitcham and Morden in 1982.
However, as elections analyst Matt Singh has pointed out, this result took place in unusual circumstances, as it was triggered by a Labour MP resigning and then defecting to the Social Democrat Party in order to re-stand.
As Singh explains in his blog, the last time a ruling party made a mid-term gain without any unusual political factors playing a part was in 1878 — nearly 150 years ago. A Conservative victory in Copeland tonight would be historic.
Labour is currently tipped to hold on to Stoke-on-Trent Central where a by-election is also taking place.
Ladbrokes values candidate Gareth Snell as 4/7 favourite to win in the Staffordshire seat, which translates to a 63.5% probability of victory.
The more interesting story in Stoke could be the performance of Paul Nuttall, who is currently valued at 2/1 to win the by-election and become just UKIP’s second MP in the House of Commons.
The UKIP leader was initially regarded as the favourite to take once-safe Labour seat and put huge pressure on himself early in the campaign by describing Stoke as “Brexit capital” of Britain. However, a series of scandals, including his false claim that he lost a close friend in the Hillsborough disaster, has severely damaged his reputation among locals.
A senior Tory figure close to the Stoke campaign told Business Insider this week that the party is confident that its candidate Jack Brereton will finish second place at the expense of UKIP. “It’s been a Labour versus UKIP narrative but when we finished third [in 2015] we only lost by forty or so votes. We’ve seen lots of people on doorsteps who have voted Labour all their lives but are now voting for Jack,” they told us.
There is now talk of the UKIP being pushed back to fourth place by the Liberal Democrats.
As Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov explains in greater detail here, there is a lot riding on the these by-elections for the parties involved. A loss in either for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would pile more pressure on his leadership while former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the result in Stoke will be “fundamental” to the party’s future after Brexit.
Here are the current betting odds in full:
Liberal Democrats 50/1
Liberal Democrats 50/1
We’ll be covering them both in full here at Business Insider with a live blog and on-the-ground reporting extending way into the early hours of tomorrow morning.
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