At first there was a small triumph for Jeremy Corbyn in holding at bay UKIP’s surge into his party’s heartland in Stoke.
Trudy Harrison, the Tory candidate who secured an historic win in Copeland, has accused Jeremy Corbyn of not representing “ordinary working people”.
Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond told the BBC the party would fight “tooth and nail” against triggering Article 50, claiming there was “real concern” in the Commons and the Lords about what will happen when there is a parliamentary vote in 18 months’ time “if there’s no agreement on the terms”.
John Woodcock, MP for neighbouring constituency Barrow, said Labour’s Copeland by-election loss to the Tories showed the party was “in trouble”.
If the trend seen in these northern constituencies proves representative of the rest of the country – where Labour’s poll ratings are now 18% behind the Tories – Corbyn has some serious work to do before the next general election. Labour on this sort of result is heading for fewer than 200 seats.
Even before the voting, party sources were seeking to head off any new challenge to Mr Corbyn’s party leadership by blaming previous challenges for Labour’s dire poll ratings – now 18% behind the Tories, according to one recent survey.
“I think that, and the combination of Jeremy Corbyn’s views on nuclear in an area which is so dependent on Sellafield and on Moorside, contributed to my win tonight”.
In video from the evening, aides to the Ukip leader can be heard angrily asking “where the fuck’s the auto?” as Nuttall tries to make a speedy getaway following his by-election defeat in Stoke-on-Trent Central.
Mr Nuttall hopes to win votes on the back of the referendum in city that has earned the nickname “Brexit Capital” of Britain.
He said afterwards: ‘Obviously the Labour party ‘s got a machine.
Video: Slip of the tongue?
Labour’s candidate Gareth Snell’s campaign has been far from smooth after it emerged early in the campaign he had tweeted in September that Brexit was a “massive pile of sh*t”. He may struggle to regain momentum.
Mr Nuttall was forced to declare he would be staying on as leader after failing to make significant inroads in a seat which voted 70% for Brexit in last year’s European Union referendum and was seen as a key test of his mission to replace Labour as the natural party of the working class of the Midlands and northern England.
He added: ‘There’s a lot more to come from us. “We’re not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere”. The one in Stoke, too.
In the central English seat of Stoke-on-Trent, Paul Nuttall, leader of the populist anti-EU UK Independence Party, failed to overturn a Labour majority despite nearly 70 percent of the city’s voters backing leaving the bloc at last year’s referendum, casting doubt on his future too. After an office is vacated the by-election is decided from candidates of all parties rather than just being filled by another member of the incumbent party – which in the case of Copeland was Labour.