20 OCTOBER 2023 | NEWS
The Labour Party has overturned some very large Conservative majorities in the by-elections held in Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth yesterday.
Mid Bedfordshire was the seat held by former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, but she reportedly stood down after her name was not included on former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list. She had not spoken in the House of Commons since last July. Labour’s candidate, Alistair Strathern, won by 1,192 votes, making for a 20.5% swing to the party and overturning a Tory majority of 24,664 votes.
Tamworth was the constituency previously held by Chris Pincher, the MP who stood down after losing his appeal against a Commons suspension following a finding that he groped two men at a private members’ club while under the influence of alcohol. The Labour candidate, Sarah Edwards, overturned a Tory majority of more than 19,600 votes to win the by-election with 1,316 votes and a swing of 23.9% to the party.
Responding to the news, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told voters: “I’m glad that they’ve seen that our party is changed, that they can put their trust and confidence in us.
“And I hope that that persuades other voters across the country who may have voted for other parties in the past that the party of the future, the party of national renewal to reject the decline of the last 30 years, is this changed Labour Party.”
Speaking specifically about the Mid Bedfordshire by-election, which also saw a strong campaign from the Liberal Democrats, he said: “This was such a hard fight. It was such a big majority with a three way fight. So thank you to all of you for having that positive case that we took out there. This is an incredible night in politics, an incredible morning. An incredible result here for so many reasons.
“It is clear that the voters here have turned their back on a failed Tory government. They’ve had enough of the decline of the last 30 years and they are crying out for change, positive change that the Labour Party can bring them.”
The Reform UK party also managed to gain in vote share, securing around 1.5K votes in both constituencies.
It is understood in Conservative Party circles that the twin by-election defeats in two previously very safe seats for the Tories have been seen to deal a serious blow to the leadership of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, despite not being unexpected in line with national polling.
Mr Sunak, speaking to reporters from Egypt, responded to the news saying the result was “obviously disappointing”, but attributed it to “local factors at play”. He added: “Obviously, disappointing results and not least because our candidates worked very hard, and I know they’ll continue to be great local champions in their communities.
“It’s important to remember the context that mid-term elections are always difficult for incumbent governments.”
Conservative Party Chairman Greg Hands said he would not resign over these results, adding that “legacy issues” were to blame that preceded Rishi Sunak’s administration. Meanwhile, Conservative peer and former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost posted on X that yesterday’s developments were “extremely bad for my party”, adding: “If your voters don’t want to come out and vote for you then you don’t win elections. It’s as simple as that.”
For the Liberal Democrats, the party’s deputy leader Daisy Cooper said they had played a “crucial role” in ensuring the Tory candidates were not ultimately victorious.
She added: “We nearly doubled our share of the vote, which would see the Lib Dems win dozens of seats off the Conservatives in a General Election.
“The Liberal Democrats played a crucial role in defeating the Conservatives in Mid Bedfordshire, and we can play a crucial role in getting rid of this Conservative government at the next election.”
But Reform UK leader Richard Tice also claimed some credit for the Tory defeat, saying on X that he believed the Conservatives had spent large sums of money on advertising asking voters not for his party.
Yesterday’s results mean that the Conservative Party has now lost four consecutive by-elections over a three-month period. Mr Hands said that “the biggest problem was Conservative voters staying at home”.
The Party did not respond to a request for comment.