If Corbyn remains, Labour will become a very different party

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Thursday’s by-elections were not quite disastrous for the Labour Party.

The loss of Copeland to the Conservatives was of course remarkable and devastating for Labour.

But it did hold Stoke-on-Trent against Ukip, which was the seat that was thought to be more at threat. Even so, while the two results taken together fell short of outright disaster, the Copeland result in isolation has profound ramifications for the future of the main opposition party.

Jeremy Corbyn has since the beginning of his parliamentary career been one of the most radical MPs in his party.

His elevation to the leadership was appropriate if Labour wants to become an uncompromising socialist party. However, any such positioning would push it away from ever holding full power, with an overall House of Commons majority.

There are arguments that in this age of splintered preferences Britain should in fact have half a dozen major parties, including a hard left one. But such an arrangement would be suited to a proportional representation electoral system and the UK firmly rejected that path in the 2011 referendum.

As it is, Mr Corbyn’s views on a range of fundamental issues – Nato, defence generally, the right of security forces to respond to immediate terror threats – puts him clearly outside the mainstream of his own party, let alone the general public. He seems to have no enthusiasm for even the most modest immigration controls, at a time of large scale population movements that could irreparably damage indigenous cultures. He would think such talk racist.

Unionists will be delighted that a man who seemed ambivalent about IRA terror, even when it was causing death and destruction in the 1980s, is being rejected by the country.

Meanwhile, Ukip’s leader Paul Nuttall seems to have damaged himself badly with his various campaign comments.

This has been a very good week for Theresa May. She seems to be establishing herself as a safe pair of hands, but also someone who appeals to all classes and who is trusted by Leave supporters to deliver a Brexit that she in fact opposed.