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Conservative Party Faces Double By-election Defeat

by-election

The Labour Party has won two by-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood, overturning big Conservative majorities.

In Wellingborough, Labour took Peter Bone’s former seat, which he had held with a majority of more than 18,000. In Kingswood, Labour overturned a 11,220 Conservative majority to win Chris Skidmore’s former seat.

By-election Victory for Labour

In both constituencies, Labour overturned big Conservative majorities but Wellingborough’s result appears to be the most significant. Gen Kitchen, the newly-elected Labour MP there, secured 45.9% of the vote share. In an impressive swing of 28.5%, the result signified the second biggest swing from Conservative to Labour at a by-election since the Second World War. Gen Kitchen is now the third-youngest MP after Nadia Whittome and Keir Mather.

In Kingswood, Labour won their first seat since 2005 with former Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan. This set a new record number of by-election defeats during a single Government parliamentary term. However, boundary changes mean that Damien Egan will represent Kingswood for only a few months before it is dissolved and split into parts to join other constituencies.

by-election victory

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was pleased with his party’s performance, saying the country is “crying out for change” as the results show that “people are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party”. However, Starmer notes that there is “always more work to do” as he added that he is not “complacent”.

A Difficult Week for Sunak

With the Rwanda Bill facing the House of Lords, to the UK officially entering recession and now two by-election defeats, this week has posed incredibly challenging for Sunak.

In response to the result, Sunak said blamed a “very low turnout”, saying midterm by-elections for sitting governments “are always difficult”. Moreover, with Reform UK securing its best ever by-election results, Sunak also warned that a vote “for anyone who isn’t the Conservative candidate” will put Starmer in power at the next general election. “That’s the actual choice during the general election, between me and him, between the Conservatives and Labour” he stated.

Though by-elections are not accurate predictors of national elections, Reform UK’s result is almost half of UKIP’s vote share in Wellingborough at the 2015 general election. And, while Reform UK is not necessarily an electoral threat to the Conservatives, it will raise fears of splitting the vote at the next election.

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Source: BBC
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Source: BBC

Final thought

Labour’s wins in both Kingswood and Wellingborough present a boost to Keir Starmer ahead of the next general election. However, there are some reservations to be made. The Conservative’s are not wrong to point out the low turn out; with only a 38% turn out in Wellinborough compared with 64% at the 2019 general election, the Labour Party only gained 107 votes while the Conservatives lost almost 25,000.

Moreover, paired with Reform UK’s increasing popularity, this indicates a significant level of apathy towards mainstream politics and questions the two-party system as people are clearly seeking a political alternative.

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