Copeland by-election at-a-glance guide

Sellafield nuclear plant in the Copeland constituencyImage copyright
PA

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Copeland is home to the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing and decommissioning plant

Several party leaders have made the long trip from Westminster to the west Cumbrian constituency of Copeland in recent weeks.

It’s home to some stunning Lake District scenery – but their visits have been with an eagerly-anticipated by-election in mind.

Voters go the polls on 23 February to elect a replacement for Labour MP Jamie Reed, who quit Parliament to work in the nuclear industry.

It’s one of two by-elections taking place that day, with Labour also defending the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central.

The battleground

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Cumbria Tourism

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The constituency includes spectacular Lake District fells

The remote coastal seat is mainly rural, hill-farming country and includes Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain, and Wastwater, its deepest lake, which was named Britain’s favourite view in 2007.

It is also home to the fishing port of Whitehaven and the Sellafield nuclear processing site, which directly employs over 10,000 people.


The candidates

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Reuters/PA

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Party leaders have been visiting Copeland to support their candidates

Labour has chosen Gill Troughton as its candidate. The councillor and former doctor and ambulance driver was chosen from an all-woman shortlist.

Up against her for the Conservatives is Trudy Harrison, who lives in the village of Bootle and was a parish councillor for a number of years.

UKIP has chosen its 2015 general election candidate, Fiona Mills.

The Liberal Democrats have chosen Rebecca Hanson and the Green Party Jack Lenox as their candidates.

There are also two independent candidates – Michael Guest and Roy Ivinson.


Electoral history

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Getty Images

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Whitehaven harbour in the coastal constituency of Copeland

Copeland and its predecessor Whitehaven have been Labour since 1935, but the seat has become more marginal in recent years.

Mr Reed, who had been an MP since 2005, held the seat by 2,564 votes from the Conservatives in 2015, with UKIP another 8,038 votes behind in third.

The Tories are bidding to become the first governing party to make a by-election gain – not including a 1982 poll triggered by a defecting Labour MP – since 1960.


Going nuclear

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NuGen

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The Moorside plant is set to open in 2024

With nearly 11,000 people employed at Sellafield, thousands more in the supply chain and a new power plant proposed in the constituency, the nuclear industry has been a key issue.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s previous opposition to new nuclear power stations has been highlighted by his opponents, although the Labour leader has since given his backing for the £10bn Moorside plant, due to open in 2024.

Doubts were raised over the project after Toshiba, which has a 60% share in NuGen, the firm behind the scheme, sustained heavy losses.

During a visit to the constituency, Prime Minister Theresa May was asked about union calls for the government to guarantee the investment to ensure the project goes ahead, saying her party “recognises the importance” of the nuclear industry.


Other issues

The prime minister also faced questions about the future of Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital, with Labour campaigning hard on the future of the maternity unit amid concerns consultant-led services could be moved elsewhere.

A key link road, the A595, has also been inspected by both Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling and his Labour counterpart, Andy McDonald, with campaigners calling for urgent improvements to be made.

Polls will be open from 07:00 GMT on 23 February until 22:00 BST, with the result expected overnight.


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