Copeland could be without an MP for three months

Jamie Reed
Jamie Reed
19 January 2017 1:09PM

Copeland could be without an MP for over three months, it has been claimed.

Labour MP Jamie Reed’s departure at the end of January will trigger a by-election. However, Labour – as the party that currently holds the seat – has to formally move the by-election writ to select his replacement, and can dictate the date constituents will go to the polls.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, MP Andrew Gwynne, the driving force behind Labour’s by-election campaign, has suggested that May 4 could be its preferred polling date.

The news has created concern locally as the absence of an MP will leave Copeland without a voice in Parliament during a crucial time for the area. The Success Regime’s controversial final proposals for local healthcare are due in the spring, while work towards major projects including the National Grid upgrade and the building of a new nuclear power station at Moorside are progressing at speed.

If May 4 is chosen, it would tie in with Cumbria County Council’s polling day.

Mr Gwynne said: “There is a thought that May 4 is a good day. We’re planning for that as it’s better to plan for a long campaign and be pleasantly surprised than plan for a short campaign and then realise you’ve got to stretch your resources out for several months.

“A decision has genuinely not been taken. There is a train of thought that May is a good date in terms of turnout because you’ve got the county council elections on the same day, so turnout will be better.”

A Labour spokesman confirmed that no decision will be taken on the date until Mr Reed's resignation takes effect.

Although it is common practice for the sitting party to move the writ, in theory any MP of any party can move it.

The national spotlight is expected to be intense in Copeland, on whichever date the by-election is called, with pundits expecting a tight race. Labour are defending a majority of 2,564 in Copeland from 2015, making it the tightest by-election for the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

Labour is currently selecting a shortlist from those who put themselves forward to succeed Mr Reed.

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