Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, on "Cash Gordon", French socialism and Stephen Byers.

1. Conservative Party "Cash Gordon" campaign was designed by US anti-health care lobbyists

Political Scrapbook reveals that the Tories' flagship campaign is currently hosted alongside those attempting to "rescue America from government-run health care".

2. Who will take on the vincible Monsieur Sarkozy?

Following the success of the Socialist Party in the recent French regional elections, Next Left's Sunder Katwala looks at runners and riders for the PS's presidential nomination.

3. Public "not facing up to" spending squeeze

Over at Left Foot Forward, Will Straw blogs on a poll that shows a strong belief in universal service provision and a preference for efficiency savings.

4. The Liberal Democrat general election prospects: what does history say?

Recent electoral trends suggest that the Lib Dems will increase their share of the vote and their share of seats in the Commons, says Liberal Democrat Voice's Mark Thompson.

5. Who is worse for Labour: Stephen Byers or Tony Woodley?

Some in Downing Street now believe that the MP lobbying scandal is doing more damage to Labour than the British Airways strike, writes Patrick Wintour.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am, every weekday.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.