The news that Labour MP Jamie Reed is to stand down in Copeland, his Lake District constituency in February 2017 has probably soured the mood at some Labour Xmas gatherings. Thrice elected Reed had a thin majority of just 2,564 over his Conservative challenger since the 2015 general election. UKIP came 3rd in the seat which encompasses the towns of Whitehaven and Keswick whilst extending down the Cumbrian coast as far as Millom. Although overwhelmingly rural nowadays, it used to be a big coal mining and industrial area. Unemployment is low at 4% but it has a large retired population at 19% which helps to explain the popularity of UKIP and why the area voted to leave the EU by 62%

Here’s a breakdown of the constituencies demographic from UK Polling report.

Reed has gone to join one of the areas main employers, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL). Why has he gone now? It could well be because he knows his seat is at risk to the Tories under Jeremy Corbyn, who he’s always opposed as Labour leader. And there’s the rub for his party. Corbyn opposes both nuclear power and Trident. Who are the two biggest employers in the area? BNFL and BAE systems shipyard in nearby Barrow in Furness! You get the picture…

This could get to be a very interesting contest as all traditional bets are off after Brexit. But how will Brexit influence the result. No-one knows. The resurgent Lib-Dems have never done well in the area so have nothing to lose by standing on a Strong pro EU platform. They won’t win the seat but no-one else is offering anything to the folks who feel disenfranchised by Labour’s volte face to support Brexit. They’re looking for a home and a voice. And what about Bregetters? There’s growing evidence that this phenomenon exists now there’s no good economic news coming out of the result to leave the EU – nor is there likely to be, and the region did very well out of EU farming subsidies and other grants.

On the other side we have UKIP. If they haven’t gone bankrupt by then (they were due to pay 172,000 euros back to the EU today) will this week’s leader, Paul Nuttall throw his hat into the ring as their candidate?

In truth, I suspect the more likely result is that the Tories could wrest control, which would be a disaster for Corbyn as the constituency has been Labour since 1935. Copeland is a long way from Westminster and a world away from Corbyn’s North London constituency. If the Tories put up a strong local candidate things could get very interesting…