How Brexit Broke Labour
That, according to Number Cruncher Politics, is the most recent directly comparable by-election result to the one we had last night in Copeland.
The party of Government increased its vote share to turn a red Labour seat into a blue Tory one. The last time a governing party beat the opposition in a by-election result was 1982, so if you're reading the news today and seeing what you think are some fairly dramatic headlines then they are, for once, justified. This is a disaster for the Labour party.
Even in Stoke Central which they held last night, their vote share dropped.
The party's leadership are blaming the disunity of the party for the results, which is ironic because that in itself is an act of disunity - blaming people within your own party. The thing is Labour backbenchers who were originally vocal in their opposition to Corbyn's Labour have quietened down a great deal since last summer's leadership challenge and yet this has still resulted in the party being, depending on who you read, 16 to 18 percentage points behind the Tories in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn trailing Theresa May in personal popularity polling by a country mile.
Jeremy Corbyn was already facing an uphill battle to hold on to - let alone expand - the Labour vote because of his controversial policies and his general unpopularity with centre ground voters. Then along came Brexit which exacerbated the problem one hundred times over. From day one the party has seen to be humming and hahing which to go over the single biggest political issue facing the country since the Second World War.
Studies have shown that people identify much more closely with their EU referendum decision than they do with any political party: they are a remainer more than they are a Conservative voter, for example. Which is why we saw the Liberal Democrats overturn Zac Goldsmith's huge majority in Richmond Park late last year and why they have increased their vote share in every parliamentary by-election since the referendum. They have a clear position that people identify with. Want a second referendum on the EU? Vote Liberal Democrat.
The same applies to the Conservatives. Want a clean break from the EU? Vote Conservative.
What is the Labour position? What kind of Brexit are you voting for by voting for Labour? Nobody is clear.
It's obvious what they should be doing. The only thing they should be talking about is Brexit and how the Conservatives are leading the country down "the rabbit hole" as Ken Clarke put it. In an ordinary world they would have set out their red lines over triggering Article 50 and refused to vote the Bill through unless those demands were met. They should be demanding economic impact assessments of leaving the single market and in the meantime publishing their own, dominating the news cycle and forcing the government to compromise.
But we haven't gotten any of that and as a result Theresa May is free to do as she wishes, rightly or wrongly. A government without an effective opposition is an extremely fragile order not just for the country but for politics in general. It generates apathy within the governing party and bad decisions start to emerge. At a time when we're facing a huge task in separating ourselves from Europe that could potentially be disastrous.
Labour is broken and we're all the worse off for it.
Today's Front Pages
Jobs and Livelihoods
The Economist: Farmers may be among the first to feel the effects of Brexit
The Telegraph: What will immigration look like post-Brexit?
The Independent: Foreign student numbers plummeting in wake of Brexit
Full Fact: The number of NHS beds has fallen
And the rest...
Financial Times: Germany and Italy back Brussels hardliners on Brexit
The Times: 'Brexit charge' adds to cost of holidays