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Labour secures dual triumph in Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections, defeating Tories.

February 16, 2024

Labour secures victories in two by-elections, flipping Wellingborough and Kingswood from Conservative control.

In Wellingborough the party overcame a majority of more than 18,500 to take the Northamptonshire seat.

The swing of 28.5% was the second biggest from the Tories to Labour in any post-war by-election.

In Kingswood, where the Tories previously had a majority of more than 11,000, there was a swing of 16.4%

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the results showed "people want change and are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party to deliver it".

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden told BBC Breakfast it was "not a great result" for his party.

However, he said the local context of the by-elections was "not ideal", with the poll in Wellingborough triggered by the ousting of disgraced former MP Peter Bone and in Kingswood by incumbent Chris Skidmore standing down less than a year before a general election.

He also pointed to the low turnouts, which he said were "substantially down" on the last general election.

The turnout in Kingswood was 37% of registered voters, while in Wellingborough it was 38% - both around half the figure in 2019, but close to the average for by-elections in this Parliament.

The results mean the Tories have suffered 10 by-election losses this Parliament - more than any previous government since the 1960s.

With a general election due this year, the latest defeats are a major blow for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose party is trailing Labour in national polls.

In Wellingborough, Labour's Gen Kitchen, a former London councillor who works in the charity sector and grew up in Northamptonshire, secured a comfortable majority of 6,436.

Meanwhile, the Tories suffered their biggest drop in vote share in any by-election since at least the Second World War.

Ms Kitchen said: "The people of Wellingborough have spoken for Britain. This is a stunning victory for the Labour Party and must send a message from Northamptonshire to Downing Street."

The by-election came after former Tory MP Mr Bone was kicked out by voters in a recall petition, following his suspension from Parliament over bullying and sexual misconduct allegations, which he denied.

Mr Bone had held the constituency since 2005, increasing his majority since then to turn it into a safe Tory seat.

His partner, Northamptonshire councillor Helen Harrison, was selected by local members as the Tory candidate to replace him.

Ms Harrison told the BBC she would be "back and fighting again for the general election".

The Tories also faced a challenge from the right with Reform UK, which achieved its best by-election result since it rebranded from its previous name, the Brexit Party, in 2021.

The party came third in both by-elections, picking up 13% of the vote in Wellingborough and 10.4% in Kingswood.

A source close to Conservative critics of Mr Sunak said Labour was "storming to a huge victory and we have an insurgent party on the right polling above 10%".

"Cue [former Brexit Party leader] Nigel Farage's intervention two months out from a general election and we're facing an extinction level event," the source added.

Labour secured a majority of 2,501 over Tory candidate Sam Bromiley in the South Gloucestershire seat of Kingswood, near Bristol.

In his victory speech Damien Egan, who resigned as mayor of Lewisham in London to fight the seat where he grew up, said 14 years of a Conservative government had "sucked the hope out of our country"

He blamed "Rishi's recession" for leaving people "paying more and getting less".

The constituency had been held by former Tory MP Mr Skidmore since 2010, until he quit over the government's climate policies.

Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who represents the nearby seat of North East Somerset, said the Kingswood result was "not as bad as I'd expected".

He told the BBC a lot of Tory voters appeared to have stayed at home and suggested more could turn out at a general election, which he said "focuses people's minds in a different way to a by-election".

Mr Rees-Mogg said the Tories needed to focus on appealing to voters who had turned to Reform, adding that there was "a lot of common ground" between the two parties.

He insisted support for Mr Sunak's leadership was "solid" and "by-elections don't change that".

However, the results pile further pressure on the prime minister following the latest official figures on Thursday which showed the UK economy fell into recession at the end of last year.

It also comes at the end of a difficult week for Labour, after the party dropped its flagship pledge to spend £28bn a year on green projects and was forced to withdraw support for its candidate in the upcoming Rochdale by-election over comments he made about Israel and Jewish people.

Source: BBC

Image: BBC, Yahoo News Canada