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By-election Results: Defeats and Victories

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Before the by-election, the Conservatives held all three seats up for grabs. The party now only holds Uxbridge and South Ruislip as they lost Somerton and Frome, and Selby and Ainsty.

The by-election outcome

The seats had become vacant due to the resignations of Boris Johnson, David Warburton, and Nigel Adams in recent months which triggered three by-elections. All three seats had been safe Tory seats, however, one now belongs to the Lib Dems, another belongs to Labour and the other still remains under Tory control – but only just.

The most highly anticipated result of the night was from Uxbridge and South Ruislip. The seat had belonged to former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson who had held it since 2015. Prior to that, it belonged to Nigel Adams, an ally of Johnson’s who resigned alongside him last month.

In a close-run battle, the Tories managed to keep hold of the seat last night despite a 6.7% swing to Labour. Steve Tuckwell came out on top with 45.2% of the vote, with Labour’s Danny Beales coming up just short with 43.6% of the vote. Insiders believe that Labour would have won the seat had it not been for local anger in the area relating to the planned expansion of the Ulez Ultra Low Emission Zone to outer London. Sadiq Kahn, London’s Labour Mayor, is behind the expansion and it is said to have worked against the party with Uxbridge set to be impacted by the plans.

Conservative defeats

The narrow victory in Uxbridge meant that Rishi Sunak escaped the prospect of becoming the first Prime Minister in over 50 years to lose three by-elections in one day, However, in the other two by-elections that took place last night, in Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome, Sunak had to sit back and watch two Conservative strangleholds slip through his fingers ahead of next year’s much anticipated general election.

In Selby and Ainsty, Labour achieved a mammoth 23.7% swing to take the seat away from the Tories. It is the largest Conservative majority that Labour have managed to overturn in a by-election since 1945. The newly appointed Member of Parliament in the area is 25-year-old Keir Mather. He is now the youngest MP in the House of Commons and is the first non-Conservative to hold the seat since it was created in 2010. After securing the victory, Mather said he had “rewritten the rules on where Labour can win” and that “people have opened their doors to us and embraced our positive vision for the future.”

In Somerton and Frome, the Conservatives lost another seemingly safe seat but this time to the Liberal Democrats. The victory was a landslide for Sarah Dyke, who took 21,187 of the votes – more than 10,00 more than Conservative Faye Purbrick who finished in second place. In her victory speech, Dyke took aim at David Warburton who was forced to resign as an MP last month following allegations of drug-taking and sexual misconduct. She labelled him an “absent MP” and said that he “let down and taken his constituency for granted for far too long.” The victory for the Liberal Democrats is their fourth by-election gain in the past four years, however, these victories still haven’t translated into significant improvements in the polls.

Political responses

Despite the results, Sunak was in high spirits and focused on their victory in Uxbridge. He said: “Westminster’s been acting like the next election is a done deal. The Labour Party has been acting like it’s a done deal. The people of Uxbridge just told all of them that it’s not. No one expected us to win here. But Steve’s victory demonstrates that when confronted with the actual reality of the Labour Party – when there’s an actual choice on a matter of substance at stake, people vote Conservative.”

Keir Starmer focused on the win in Selby and Ainsty. He said “This is a historic result that shows that people are looking at Labour and seeing a changed party that is focused entirely on the priorities of working people with an ambitious, practical plan to deliver.”

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said that their victory in Somerton and Frome “shows that the Liberal Democrats are firmly back in the West Country and that the public are “fed up” of Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives. Davey also once again refused to rule out a Labour/Lib Dem coalition at the next general election.

Final thought

The results of the three by-elections held last night have undoubtedly been a significant blow to the Conservative Party. Losing two seemingly safe seats, one to Labour and one to the Liberal Democrats, is a clear indication that the party is facing significant challenges and that their hold on power is far from secure. While the narrow victory in Uxbridge and South Ruislip can be seen as a positive for the party, it is important to note that the party’s performance in national polls remains poor.

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