Rishi Sunak has avoided a clean sweep of by-election defeats after holding onto Uxbridge and South Ruislip in a night of three votes…reports Asian Lite News
There had been pessimism in the Conservative Party that they would lose the west London seat, alongside Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire and Somerton and Frome in Somerset.
But the vote in west London was dominated by the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone – ULEZ – into the area by Labour’s mayor of London Sadiq Khan. It means Sunak avoids becoming the first prime minister since Harold Wilson in 1968 to lose three by-elections in one go.
Sir Keir Starmer will be disappointed to not have gained the west London seat. The majority before the vote was around 7,000 – and at one point in the campaign, Labour candidate Danny Beales had an eight-point lead over the Tories’ Steve Tuckwell.
Tuckwell walked away with a majority of 495 votes – and claimed Mr Khan had “lost Labour this election” after bagging 13,965 to Labour’s 13,470.
At the other end of the country, in North Yorkshire, Labour sealed their largest ever by-election win – overturning a Conservative lead of roughly 20,000 – by taking 16,456 compared to 12,295.
The party threw a substantial amount of resources at the Selby and Ainsty seat, which was not on their target list before the snap vote was called when former MP Nigel Adams stepped aside.
But Conservative voters appeared to stay at home, letting Labour take home the seat with a swing of 23.7 points.
There was further grim reading for the Tories in Somerset’s Somerton and Frome as the Liberal Democrats overturned a majority of 19,213, reclaiming a seat they had held until 2015. Now the Tories trail by 11,008 behind the Liberal Democrats’ 21,187 votes with 10,179.
Asked what went wrong, Tory chairman Greg Hands said it is “no secret” his party has had a difficult year and the backdrop to the by-elections “were not particularly favourable to the Conservatives”.
He added: “Clearly we’re disappointed by the results in Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome. We’ll listen carefully to the electorate in both of those constituencies.”
But Hands claimed there’s also “important lessons for Labour” and the result in Uxbridge showed “people were voting against a Labour London mayor who’d not run things properly in London”.
Labour are now claiming the ULEZ issue that dominated Uxbridge and South Ruislip does not represent the feeling across the UK.
A Labour spokesman said: “This was always going to be a difficult battle in a seat that has never had a Labour MP, and we didn’t even win in 1997.
“We know that the Conservatives crashing the economy has hit working people hard, so it’s unsurprising that the ULEZ expansion was a concern for voters here in a by-election.”
Labour MP Steve Reed was a bit more blunt in his conclusions.
He said: “I think the winning Conservative candidate just said it, didn’t he? He said that if it wasn’t for ULEZ, he believes Labour would have won this by-election.
“Clearly, it did resonate with a lot of people. They didn’t like the fact that ULEZ was going to cost people more to drive around at a time when there’s a cost-of-living crisis going on. That’s exactly what Danny Beales was saying all the way through the campaign.
“But I think when the voters speak, any party that seeks to govern has to listen. So that’s what Labour will be doing after this.”
The by-elections came about after Johnson, Adam and David Warburton stood aside from their seats amid scandal and shunned honours.
There was a 6.7-percentage point swing in the share of the vote from Conservative to Labour in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Labour needed a 7.6-point swing to take the seat.
The byelection was triggered by Johnson’s shock resignation after the Commons privileges committee recommended a lengthy suspension from parliament for knowingly misleading parliament about lockdown parties in Downing Street.
In Selby, the Conservatives blamed the outgoing MP, Nigel Adams, for their defeat. People were “really disappointed” that Adams quit in a huff because he didn’t get a seat in the Lords, said Andrew Jones, the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, who has been overseeing much of the Tory campaigning in Selby. It was “the main talking point” on the doorstep, he claimed.
The Liberal Democrats have gained four seats from the Conservatives at byelections this parliament, after winning Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire in 2021, and Tiverton and Honiton last year.
In her victory speech in Somerset, Dyke thanked lifelong Conservative voters for switching to the Lib Dems for the first time.
The Lib Dems won 21,187 votes with a 28-point swing, while the Tories achieved their worst result in the history of the seat with 10,179 votes and 26% of the vote. The Greens came third, with Reform UK fourth and Labour fifth.