All posts by bainalan05

A maverick who loves sport - espcially football cricket and baseball - and also moaning about the mess politicans make of running Britain.

Today’s history making event is unnecessary. 

History has been made today – unlike the bogus history of last week’s WWE Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match genuine history. For the first time in history a full round of English County Championship matches started at 2pm instead of 11pm, will be played under lights ( even though we are only a week removed from the longest day of the year !) and with a pink ball. Revolutionary change ( unlike the so called WWE “Women’s Revolution) but unlike that so called “revolution” totally unnecessary. There was no demand from the English counties for the change.

So why was it done? Simple. England are playing a Test match under lights and with the pink ball against the West Indies starting on August 17th at Edgbaston so this round of County Championship matches is being played under lights with a pink ball in order to prepare England’s elite players for this match. But there was no demand from England’s players or fans for a floodlit pink ball Test in England. So why is this Test taking place?

The answer is because of a spineless, pathetic capitulation by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) which could cost England dear in this winter’s Ashes series. In November 2015 (see previous post “Test Cricket Joins the 21st Century”) Australia played New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval in the first ever floodlit/pink ball Test. The next year Australia played South Africa and Pakistan in floodlit/pink ball Tests at Adelaide and Brisbane respectively. The Tests were great successes all won by Australia and all attracted bigger crowds than the day only Tests played previously in the same cities. So Cricket Australia (CA) asked the ECB to agree to play a floodlit Test in the 2017-18 Ashes series and shamefully they agreed so the floodlit Ashes Test will be played at Adelaide starting on December 2nd. But the ECB should not have agreed to this. And here’s why.

The only raison d’être for day/night Test cricket in my opinion is to increase attendences. But the Ashes always sells out – regardless of whether it is played in England or Australia. If the Ashes always sells out why have a day/night Test? The answer is that CA have laid a trap for England and the ECB have walked straight into it. Australia are used to playing with a pink ball – they have played and won three home Tests with it. So if they could lure England into accepting the day/night Test it would give Australia a big advantage. And the pea brains at the ECB did just that.

But of course they could not send England to Australia this winter without any experience of pink ball cricket hence the Test against the West Indies in August and hence why they had nine pink ball County Championship matches starting today. But again there was no demand for pink ball day/night cricket in England.

So in summary to appease Australia the ECB have agreed to two unnecessary pink ball Tests – as day/night Tests are unnecessary in England (where Test cricket has always been well supported). Because the ECB was too spineless to tell Australia where to go. Playing a floodlit Test in England in August is asking for trouble. And it is so unnecessary…

PS – if you read previous post “Test Cricket Joins the 21st century” you will know I am in favour of day/night Tests.  But – and this is the caveat – only as a way of boosting attendences. Ashes Tests – plus Tests in England generally – do not have problems attracting spectators. Plus the climate in the UK is not suitable for day/ night pink ball Test cricket. Therefore these Tests are unnecessary.

Intergender angles in the WWE must go. And very quickly.

To say the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank match ended in controversy is like saying this month’s UK General Election did not go to plan for Prime Minister Theresa May. For anyone who didn’t know the match – which is won by the first competitor to climb a ladder and grab a briefcase which guarantees the winner a title match at the time of her choice anytime in the next year – ended when James Ellsworth – a man – grabbed the briefcase and handed it to Carmella making her the winner.

To say the shit hit the fan is an understatement. WWE had hyped up the match as a historic achievement for women and played an impressive video before the match showing some famous women from WWE history – including Mae Young, Wendi Richter, Trish Stratus and Lita – then in effect had a man win it. Then after a couple of days of mayhem Smackdown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan announced Carmella would be stripped of the briefcase and the match would be replayed on next Tuesdays Smackdown Live. 

Those are the facts. Now my opinion. The decision to have Ellsworth climb the ladder and grab the briefcase was ludicrous – an example of toxic sexism at its worst. It was like “We will give the women a Money in the Bank match but the poor girlies are too weak to climb a ladder by themselves so we have to have a man to do it for them”. And this is dangerous. I was talking to a friend whose 8 year old cousin (a boy) watched the match and he said to his mother “Girls can’t climb a ladder” Now WWE pride themselves on being a child friendly PG product. How on earth they did not think this ending would not influence young children into thinking that women and girls are inferior. Obviously they don’t even think. The ending was a disgrace and whoever in Creative came up with it needs to join the unemployment line. Ideally he (it must have been a he) should be put in the stocks and have women throw things at him!

Now some people have said we were being “worked” ie WWE always planned to anull Carmella’s victory and have the redo. The hole in that argument is that the ladder match is one of the most dangerous in WWE. I really doubt that this company had planned for women who have never been in a ladder match before to do two in nine days. Other people have said that WWE were shocked by the public backlash and backtracked. The hole in that argument is that WWE never listen to their fans – if they did Roman Reigns would have turned heel two years ago. But WWE do listen to their sponsors (Bryan knows this. He was briefly fired in 2010 when sponsors Mattel were not happy with him strangling ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie). I suspect a WWE sponsor(s) had a word with them and put pressure on the company to sort the mess out. Maybe a sponsor threatened to pull out if they didn’t sort it out. Whatever the reason hopefully we have an exciting match on Tuesday with a woman grabbing the briefcase – which is what should have happened on Sunday anyway. 

But WWE need to take a long hard look at themselves. Why was Ellsworth with Carmella in the first place? People might say it was to interfere in her matches and gain heel heat. The problem is heels are meant to get their comeuppance – but men and women can’t fight each other so Ellsworth will never get his comeuppance . WWE had been circling with disaster with this angle since it started. Trouble was inevitable. 

The same can be said the other way round. Most viewers hate Stephanie McMahon shouting at and generally emasculating the male talent. And the men just have to stand there and take it because male on female violence is taboo and quite rightly so. So why put Stephanie and the men in that position? Same with the Miz and his wife Maryse. Miz puts Maryse between him and his opponent effectively using her as a human shield since the men can’t attack her. Terrorists use women and children as a human shield for the same reason. This tactic has NO place in entertainment. 

The solution is so easy that I’m surprised the dumb dumbs in WWE Creative haven’t thought of it. Any male or female superstar that interferes in matches involving the opposite gender is GONE. At once. Also for that reason inter gender factions should be banned. For example Nikki Cross should not be in Sanity. And while we are at it can mixed tags (rubbish) and romantic angles (the current Alica Fox/Noam Dar/Cedric Alexander angle on RAW and 205 Live is hot garbage as most romantic angles are). 

I should say I’m not against interference in the WWE. But if is same gender interference the perpetrators can get their comeuppance. For example the Singh Brothers run interference for WWE Champion Jinder Mahal but get beaten up every time. They are virtually Mahal’s crash test dummies. Meanwhile it looks like the Miz/Maryse partnership is breaking up and instead Miz will have Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel to run interference for him. Good. Miz cannot use Dallas and Axel as human shields as his opponents can just beat them up which they could not do with Maryse. 

Another reason to ban intergender angles is that WWE will have to put more effort into the women’s division. According to Kate Foray’s RAW Breakdown only 4% of RAW this past Monday was devoted to the women wrestlers. If you add Maryse’s Miz TV segment with her husband the fugure jumps to a still pathetic 10%. WWE have in effect used intergender angles and mixed tags to artificially inflate female participation in RAW and Smackdown Live. If they are banned they might have to give RAW women more than one segment a week (!) 

WWE like to think they compete against real sport (they always blame Monday Night (American) Football and the NBA play offs when the ratings fall so they must think they compete for the same audience). And real sport is gender segregated – especially combat sport like boxing and MMA. WWE should be the same. Intergender angles in WWE must go. And very quickly. 

One other thought. The women’s cricket World Cup starts on Saturday. Wimbledon starts a week on Monday. The women’s Euro 2017 football tournament starts next month. I can guarantee that no men will run on the pitch and court and interfere in those events….

Ten trades I would make in the Superstar Shake-up 

WWE is unlike most sports in that it doesn’t have an off season. RAW and Smackdown are on 52 weeks a year, every year. That being said Wrestlemania is generally considered the end of the WWE “year” and the RAW after Wrestlemania the start of a new “year”. And on Monday’s RAW after Wrestlemania WWE chairman Vince McMahon announced a “Superstar Shake-up” for next week’s RAW. We don’t really know what that means except that an unspecified number of wrestlers will be traded between the two shows. Needless to say there are a lot of rumours about who will be traded.

I have no idea anymore than anyone else has about who will be traded. What I will do here is list ten trades I would do to shake things up – five from RAW to Smackdown and five in the opposite direction. Some I suspect will happen some are just wishful thinking on my part.

Anyway here are five RAW to Smackdown trades I would make : 

Finn Balor – This is a trade made for the sake of fairness and justice. It must be remembered Finn Balor never lost the Universal Title back in August. He had to relinquish the title the night after SummerSlam because of an injury during his title win over Seth Rollins. Justice says he should get an instant shot at getting it back – but WWE in their infinite (lack of) wisdom have put the belt on part timer Brock Lesnar who probably won’t turn up again until June. Balor deserves better. Switch him to Smackdown where he can challenge whoever has the WWE title once the Randy Orton v Bray Wyatt feud is over. Balor v Wyatt is a match I would like to see. Also it gets Balor away from Rollins. It doesn’t make sense that on Monday Balor was tagging with Rollins who injured him back in August (albeit accidentally). 

Charlotte – One of Charlotte and Sasha Banks MUST be traded to Smackdown this coming Monday. Their rivalry made history in the women’s division – including the first women’s Hell in a Cell match which also became the first women’s match to main event a pay-per-view. But their rivalry is all played out now and if Banks turns heel as expected her and Charlotte as allies would seem weird. Either of them could be traded but as I want to see Banks v Bayley – which has only happened once on the main roster – Charlotte gets the nod. 

New Day – This is a no brainer to me. Smackdown’s tag division is such a mess its title was not defended at WrestleMania. The New Day have gone stale since losing the RAW title back in December. The obvious way to kill two birds with one stone is to trade New Day to Smackdown. Champions the Usos get new rivals and New Day get a chance of scenery. As a bonus if Vince McMahon wants to push Big E as a singles competitor in the future the smaller Smackdown roster is the place to do it. 

Rusev – Doubt that this will happen as he is injured but Rusev badly needs a change. Since being fed to Roman Reigns the Bulgarian has been in an awful feud with Enzo and Cass and stuck in a terrible tag team with Jinder Mahal. That broke up at Fastlane last month but injury saved him from being put in the Andre Battle Royal at WrestleMania. Rusev would beef up the Smackdown mid card and on his return would be an immediate contender for the Intercontinental Title. 

Sami Zayn – This should be a no brainer. He really should have been drafted to Smackdown back in July he has been little more than cannon fodder for Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe and frankly has been wasted. Also (like Charlotte and Sasha Banks above) him and Kevin Owens need to be split up and as Owens is the US Champion and won’t be traded Zayn is the only option. 

Now here are five that should go in the opposite direction from Smackdown to RAW. This is harder because the Smackdown roster (especially the male singles side) is smaller but here goes : 

Carmella – The RAW women’s division is top heavy. The Smackdown women’s division is bottom heavy. Therefore Smackdown should get an elite woman and RAW a not so elite woman. Carmella fits the bill. Besides sending her to RAW (a) breaks up her awful alliance with useless James Ellsworth and (b) reunites her with Enzo and Cass which was a successful partnership in NXT.

Luke Harper – The purpose of this trade is to get the talented Harper out of Bray Wyatt’s shadow. Haper has potential to be a break out star but I suspect as long as he is on the same show as Wyatt he will be overshadowed. Separating Braun Strowman from the Wyatt Family worked for him. It could also work for Harper. 

Kalisto – As with Sami Zayn (see above) this should have happened at the original draft. Kalisto is a Cruiserweight. The Cruiserweights are on RAW. Unless WWE were going to push him as a giant killer a la Rey Mysterio this made no sense. Kalisto’s job on Smackdown has been as a punchbag for Baron Corbin and then (with Apollo Crews) he was part of a terrible handicap match against Dolph Ziggler at the Elimination Chamber in February. Like Neville a move to the Cruiserweight Division could revitalise his career.

AJ Styles – This has been rumoured for ages and I suspect that the Styles v Shane McMahon angle that led to a better than it had any right to be match between the two at WrestleMania is the storyline reason for sending Styles to RAW. They shook hands on Tuesday night’s Smackdown but do they trust each other? I suspect no and Shane will trade Styles to RAW. 

Dolph Ziggler – It looked like Ziggler’s career had been rescued by his Intercontinental Title feud with the Miz. Then he lost the title back to the Miz and…Oh dear. A heel turn hasn’t really worked ( he had that terrible handicap match mentioned above) and it might be that Ziggler’s career is beyond saving. It might have slightly more chance of happening with a change of scenery.

Others that I would trade but definitely won’t be traded would be Cesaro to Smackdown (but he and Sheamus are the number one contenders for the RAW tag titles so won’t happen) and Dean Ambrose in the opposite direction (but he is still the Intercontinental Champion so presumably it won’t happen). It will be fascinating to see how many trades are done on Monday and how many I get right. One thing is certain. It will be fun to find out…

 

Sharapova should restart at the bottom

Today’s Daily Telegraph features an interview with a female tennis player who served a ban for a positive drug test and made her comeback at the indoor clay event in Stuttgart. No it’s not the one you’re thinking of (I’ll get to her later…).

The player I’m talking about is Barbora Strycova the World number 20 from the Czech Republic. Strycova is a member of the successful Czech Fed Cup team who have won the Fed Cup in five of the last six years. Not as famous as her compatriots Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova she was still an important part of the team and in the last two years she played in the final decisive doubles rubber which clinched the title for the Czechs. 

But she wasn’t always as highly regarded. In 2012 she tested positive for the banned stimulant sibultramine as a result of consuming a dubious weight-loss supplement called Acai Berry Thin. On April 22 2013 she made her comeback in the first qualifying round of Stuttgart (I’ve emphasised​ qualifying quite deliberately) losing to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. After Stuttgart she played in a humble $25,000 ITF tournament in Wiesbaden Germany which is the lowest level of the women’s professional game. She lost in her first match. She had to qualify for all the Grand Slams – two of them successfully – and play more ITF tournaments. She was given no favours which having served a drug ban she should not have been. But to her credit she grafted and at the end of 2013 she had got back into the World’s top 100.

Four years later, on April 26 2017 another female tennis player will make her comeback from a drugs ban – a fifteen month drugs ban. This is of course Maria Sharapova. Sharapova like Strycova will make her comeback in Stuttgart. But that is where the similarity ends. First of all the tournament starts on April 24 but Sharapova’s ban ends on the 26th. But shamefully Sharapova will be allowed to play in Stuttgart despite this and she will be given the right to start on the 26th – a Wednesday – while players like Strycova who will be playing for the Czech Republic in the USA the week before – have to start on Monday or Tuesday. 

Even worse Sharapova has been given a wildcard straight into the first round of Stuttgart. And not only Stuttgart. She has also been given wildcards into the first round of the Madrid Open and the Rome Masters. Remember Strycova had to start in the qualifying of Stuttgart and play humble ITF events. Why shouldn’t​ Sharapova?  After all she failed a drug test too and her ban was longer than Strycova’s. 

I should stress I’m not blaming the tournaments in question as Sharapova is a draw and the tournaments are out for their own interests. I am blaming the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). This gutless spineless excuse for a governing body should make sure all players are treated equally. If Strycova had to start in the qualifying round of big tournaments and in humble ITF events so should Sharapova. So should anyone who fails a drug test. Now if a player is a victim of a stabbing (like poor Petra Kvitova was before Christmas) or if a player falls pregnant and has a child (as Victoria Azarenka did last year) they are fully entitled to wildcards and having their ranking protected. But a player who failed a drugs test should not be given preferential treatment either to clean players or to other players who failed drug tests. 

Hopefully the Grand Slams behave differently. Sharapova will definitely either have to qualify for the French Open or rely on a wild card. She might have to do likewise for Wimbledon if she has not accumulated around 600 ranking points by May 22. The French Open and Wimbledon must NOT reward a player who failed a drug test. Sharapova is entitled to attempt a comeback. But the French Open and Wimbledon must do what the WTA did not have the guts to do. They must not give her a wildcard. Sharapova and all other drug test failures should be told they must restart at the bottom. Just like Barbora Strycova had to…

How I would book Wrestlemania 33 (Part 2) 

In my previous post I listed the matches I would have booked for Wrestlemania 33. Now I will explain why I booked them and who should win. 

If you read my previous post you will have noticed that only one match on the real card is unaltered – Triple H v Seth Rollins (Assuming that Rollins knee is all right and he can compete). Hopefully Rollins goes over in this match as it fits into a storyline that I would start at Wrestlemania. 

Kevin Owens v Chris Jericho and Goldberg v Brock Lesnar would both still take place if I were booking but Owens v Jericho NOT Goldberg v Lesnar would be for the Universal Title. This is because in my mind Goldberg v Lesnar is one of those matches (like Rock v Hogan and the first Rock v Cena match) that is big enough not to need the title. Plus Owens and Jericho deserve the title slot for carrying RAW through the winter. Lesnar and Goldberg would not be the main event either. It would be in the middle of the card, lasting ten minutes at the very most with Brock getting revenge for his humiliation at Survivor Series. As for Owens v Jericho I’ll mention the winner later as it reveals the new storyline I mentioned earlier. 

So if Jericho and Owens are not fighting for the US title who would be? I don’t understand why they took the US title off Roman Reigns if the plan was not to give him the Universal title (it wasn’t). I’d have kept the US title on Reigns and have him defend it against Braun Strowman – a match that WWE in their infinite (lack of) wisdom wasted at Fastlane. And I would have Strowman win. To my mind the mid card titles should be used to promote new stars and Strowman should be one of them. Plus for his improvement in the last year he deserves a title. 

On the Smackdown side two matches I would get rid of – at once – would be AJ Styles v Shane McMahon and the awful mixed tag between John Cena and Nikki Bella and the Miz and Maryse. Mixed tags and Shane McMahon have no place at Wrestlemania. Instead John Cena would face the Undertaker – a match everybody but Vince McMahon wants it seems – with Taker winning. AJ Styles meanwhile would be added to the real life Randy Orton v Bray Wyatt title match. I would have booked this triple threat this way. Bray Wyatt wins the Royal Rumble, AJ Styles loses the title to Randy Orton at Elimination Chamber and Styles uses his rematch clause to get a title shot at Wrestlemania. Bray Wyatt would get his title winning moment at Wrestlemania but Styles would get his title match at Wrestlemania which he deserves for the matches he has provided in the last year. As for the Miz he should get an Intercontinental title match having made that title relevant again. A disappointing feature of Wrestlemania this year is the lack of a multi man ladder match so I would have had champion Dean Ambrose, the Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Kalisto and Luke Harper in an intercontinental ladder match which Corbin would win (I suspect he will win the Intercontinental title for real at Wrestlemania).

Next the women’s titles. Amazingly there has not been a women’s singles match at Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 23 (the one Donald Trump was in) and there won’t be one this year as there have been two clusterfuck matches announced for both women’s titles. That’s not how I would have booked it. Instead for the RAW women’s title it would be heel Sasha Banks (she would have turned heel at Hell in A Cell last year by defending her title with help from Nia Max and Stephanie McMahon and her and Jax would have formed a female version of the Austin/Triple H two man power trip of 2001) against Bayley in a no disqualification match. Jax and Stephanie would try to interfere but Bayley would overcome the odds to gain a fairytale win and win the title at Wrestlemania (NOT on a random episode of RAW for god sake). 

But what about Charlotte? Well if I’d been booking the Sasha v Charlotte Hell In a Cell match back in October would have been a loser leaves RAW match. Therefore Charlotte having lost the match would be on Smackdown and she would be challenging Becky Lynch (I would not have taken the title off her) for the Smackdown women’s title. Charlotte would win and make history as the first woman to hold both the RAW and Smackdown women’s titles.  

As for the other women they would be put into a pre show Battle Royal – but unlike past women’s Battle Royals at Wrestlemania this one would mean something. The winner would be the number one contender for her brand’s women’s title. I would give the win to Mickie James who has just turned face. Mickie v Charlotte is a potentially good fantasy match we have not seen yet.

That leaves the Cruiserweights the tag teams and the rest. The Cruiserweight title match would be Neville v Jack Gallagher – which again WWE wasted at Fastlane. I’m biased but I want to see two UK wrestlers fight each other at Wrestlemania. Neville would retain. Sadly one of the tag team title matches probably has to go on the preshow – probably the Smackdown title as it has barely featured even on Smackdown (assuming both titles are on the show). The RAW title match would be the same as at Wrestlemania except I would add the New Day to make it a fatal four way (Why the New Day are hosting Wrestlemania instead of wrestling in it I don’t know). I would book Champions American Alpha v the Usos for the Smackdown titles. Both champions would retain. The rest of the male wrestlers would go into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal which I would have Sami Zayn win last eliminating Samoa Joe. 

That leaves the Owens v Jericho match. Owens would win – but not cleanly. Owens would distract the referee and while that is going on Triple H, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns would attack Jericho. When that is finished Owens hits Jericho with the pop up powerbomb wins – and then Owens, Triple H, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns celebrate over the prone Jericho. It has been long rumoured that Triple H is planning a new version of Evolution with Owens Joe and others. I reckon it should (a) start at Wrestlemania and (b) be the vehicle for the long overdue Roman Reigns heel turn.

I’m convinced that this Wrestlemania card would be far better than the one we will get on April 2nd. It would still have the part timers but it would also push new champions Strowman, Corbin and Bray Wyatt. It would have no rubbish mixed tags and no Shane McMahon match. I’m convinced it would be a successful show. But let’s hope Wrestlemania 33 is better in the ring than it looks on paper….

How I would book Wrestlemania 33 (Part 1) 

On Sunday April 2nd the WWE’s annual showpiece Wrestlemania will take place in Orlando….And to be honest it does not look good. There are at least three matches on the card that no one wants namely AJ Styles v Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns v the Undertaker and the appalling mixed tag between John Cena and Nikki Bella and the Miz and Maryse. Add to that the fact that Goldberg v Brock Lesnar is for the Universal Title thus ensuring that there will be a part time Universal Champion after WrestleMania. While there are good matches on the card – Kevin Owens v Chris Jericho, Bray Wyatt v Randy Orton and Triple H v Seth Rollins – assuming that Rollins is fit – the show could be another flop like last year’s Wrestlemania without the appalling injury list which was a big excuse for the average (at best) Wrestlemania last year. The card this year – with hardly any injuries – does not look good. And I can do it better!

First of all here is the card that I would have booked and then in my next post I’ll explain why I’ve booked it this way and how I’d have win.

WWE Universal Championship : Kevin Owens (c) v Chris Jericho

WWE Championship : Randy Orton (c) v AJ Styles v Bray Wyatt (Triple Threat).

John Cena v The Undertaker

Brock Lesnar v Goldberg

Triple H v Seth Rollins

United States Championship : Roman Reigns (c) v Braun Strowman.

Intercontinental Championship Six Man Ladder Match : Dean Ambrose (c) v the Miz v Dolph Ziggler v Baron Corbin v Kalisto v Luke Harper.

RAW Women’s Championship : Sasha Banks (c) v Bayley.

Smackdown Women’s Championship : Becky Lynch (c) v Charlotte.

Cruiserweight Championship : Neville (c) v Jack Gallagher.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Women’s Battle Royal (Winner to get a title shot against the champion of her choice).

RAW tag team Championship :  The Club (c) v Sheamus and Cesaro v Enzo and Cass .v The New Day.

Smackdown tag team Championship : American Alpha (c) v the Usos.

(c) = the champion(s) I would have before Wrestlemania.

So there is my card. My reasons for it (plus my winners) in my next post…

The best result for May would be two Labour victories

There are two parliamentary by elections in the UK tomorrow both caused by the resignation of the sitting Labour MP. One is the marginal Copeland (2015 majority 2,564) and one the safer Stoke on Trent Central (2015 majority 5,179). But the pressure is all on Labour. With their ghastly poll ratings there is at least a chance of a Conservative gain in Copeland which would be the first time a governing party has gained a seat in a by election since Mitcham and Morden in 1982* and the first time from the main opposition party since Brighouse and Spenbourgh in 1960. Stoke on Trent Central might appear safer but it was a heavily pro Brexit voting area last year and Labour in their infinite (lack of) wisdom have picked a pro remain candidate and UKIP are throwing the kitchen sink (and new leader Paul Nuttal) at this seat. One defeat for Labour would be bad. Two would be catastrophic. 

In theory the Conservatives should be laughing at this. But in my opinion the best result for Prime Minister Theresa May would be two Labour holds. The reason for this is that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is not popular with voters and is not regarded as a potential Prime Minister by either the public or most of his own party. He is the Conservatives main electoral asset. If Labour win both by elections – especially if they win by increased majorities – Corbyn’s leadership is strengthened. Conversely if they lose one or both by elections the pressure on Corbyn will mount and he might resign or be forced out. Labour might then be led by a competent leader and the Conservatives will face a real fight in the next election. 

Plus if UKIP win the Stoke by election that party – which has been a shambles since the last election and had three leaders last year! – might mount a comeback. The Conservatives won’t want that as UKIP could attract pro Brexit Conservatives who are unhappy with the Government- in the same way as the Lib Dems are a protest for pro remain Conservatives. Theresa May does not want a UKIP revival. 

There are two by elections in history that a Conservative Government lost but the party benefited from the loss. One was Darlington in March 1983. This like Copeland was a marginal Labour seat. Labour like now had an unpopular leader in Michael Foot. The month before Labour had suffered a humiliating defeat to the SDP-Liberal Alliance in Bermondsey suffering a swing of 44.2 per cent – still a record by election swing and the pressure was on Foot. The Australian Labor Party had changed its leader just before a General Election in February 1983 and unexpectedly won that country’s General Election. People in the UK Labour Party thought a change of leadership might enable them to do the same thing. So the Darlington by election was vital. “In effect the contest became a referendum Michael Root’s leadership” (David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh “The British General Election of 1983” page 60). As it turned out Labour won with an increased majority preserving Michael Foot’s leadership. But it was a hollow victory. Ossie O’Brien the victor was an MP for less than three months. He lost his seat back to the Conservatives in the June 1983 election which the Conservatives win with a huge 144 seat majority. But had Labour lost the Darlington by election who knows? Foot might have been replaced, and Labour might have emulated their Australian counterparts and won the election. As the book on the 1983 election put it (page 43) “Darlington stayed Labour but the Conservatives were not sorry since Michael Foot was secured in office”.

Another by election that was a good defeat for the Conservatives was the Eastleigh by election of 2013. The Conservatives hoped to win the seat from their struggling Lib Dem coalition partners but Mike Thornton held the seat for the Lib Dems. But this benefited the Conservatives as like Darlington in 1983 it kept an unpopular leader – in this case Nick Clegg – in office. It also kept the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in power. Had the Conservatives win the by election Clegg could have been toppled a more left leaning leader like Vince Cable could have been elected and the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition could have collapsed. That would have produced either a two year lame duck minority Conservative Government at best or at worst an early General Election which judging by the polls Labour would have won. Also if UKIP had won Eastleigh the UKIP surge of 2013 could have been even greater and had there been a General Election in 2013 UKIP could have gained votes and seats from the Conservatives. As it turned out Clegg survived the Coalition lasted two more years the Lib Dems got decimated in 2015 when the Conservatives win an unexpected majority. 

The precedents of 1983 and2013 suggest that if there is an unpopular leader the other party can benefit if that leader remains in office until the next General Election. It might very well be in Theresa May’s best interest for Labour to win in Copeland and Stoke tomorrow and let Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership limp on to its probable diasterous end in 2020 – If he lasts that long. 

*The 1982 Mitcham and Morden by election was a complicated affair. It was a Labour seat in 1979 but its MP Bruce Douglas-Mann defected to the SDP in 1982 and resigned to fight a by election under his new party banner (like Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless did in 2014). But unlike those two he was unsuccessful and the seat was gained by the Conservatives. Whether it should as a Conservative gain from Labour or the SDP is debatable but it is the last occasion a UK governing party gained a seat at a by election.