Another setback for Rishi Sunak as Labor snatches two seats | ET REALITY

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Britain’s ruling Conservative Party lost two of its safest parliamentary seats on Friday, in a significant and ominous setback for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who must call a general election that will decide its fate over the next 15 months.

The vote in the Conservative strongholds of Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth took place on Thursday to replace two of the party’s MPs, one of whom resigned after a sexual assault allegation, and came as the system Britain’s health care system faces acute strain and its economy stagnates amid high inflation. .

While this was always likely to put the Conservatives under pressure, the double defeat at the heart of the party was a blow to Sunak and a surprising success for the opposition Labor Party and its leader, Keir Starmer.

In Tamworth, north-east of Birmingham, the Labor Party overturned a majority of almost 20,000 in the last general election to win narrowly, while in Mid Bedfordshire, about 80 kilometers north of London, the main opposition party overtook an even greater deficit to win the seat.

Starmer described the vote as “a phenomenal result that shows the Labor Party is once again serving workers and redrawing the political map”.

In a statement, he added: “To those who have given us their trust and to those who are considering doing so, the Labor Party will spend every day acting in your best interests and focusing on your priorities. “Labour will give Britain its future back.”

Analysts warn against over-interpreting these types of local contests, known as by-elections, where there is no prospect of the result changing the government and voters often cast their ballots to register a protest against the ruling party. Less than 36 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote in Tamworth; in Mid Bedfordshire the figure was higher, at 44 per cent.

Because the Conservatives won so convincingly in the last general election, in 2019, Labor has an electoral mountain to climb if it is to win a clear majority the next time Britons are asked to decide who should govern them.

However, the magnitude of the vote shift revealed on Friday does not bode well for Sunak, suggesting that even some of his Conservative Party’s most secure strongholds are no longer impregnable. It will also increase Starmer’s confidence that, having moved his party to the political centre, he can win an outright majority in the next general election.

“This is not destiny, but it is an indicator that unless the Conservatives can change things quite dramatically and radically, then they will indeed face defeat within 12 months,” said John Curtice, teacher. he told the BBC on Friday morning.

The first result to be announced came from Tamworth, where voters were choosing a successor to Chris Pincher, the former Conservative MP who had represented the constituency. He resigned from Parliament after a drunken incident in which he had allegedly groped two men.

In the last general election in 2019, Pincher won with a majority of 19,634, but on Friday that was overturned when Labor candidate Sarah Edwards won 11,719 votes and Conservative candidate Andrew Cooper 10,403.

“Tonight the people of Tamworth have voted for Labour’s positive vision and a new beginning,” Ms Edwards told her enthusiastic supporters after the result. “They have sent a clear message to Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives that they have had enough of this failed government.”

Support for Brexit was strong in Tamworth, and Labor’s victory will encourage them to think they are winning back voters who had abandoned them for the Conservatives because they favored Britain leaving the European Union.

In Mid Bedfordshire, the race was to replace Nadine Dorries, a former cabinet minister and prominent supporter of Boris Johnson, who resigned as prime minister last year. Dorries announced her intention to leave Parliament in June when Johnson resigned as a lawmaker, but she caused confusion by delaying her formal resignation and she faced accusations of absenteeism and failing to represent local voters.

At the 2019 general election, Dorries won a majority of 24,664 votes over Labour, and the Conservatives had represented the ward since 1931.

That ended on Friday when Labor candidate Alistair Strathern got 13,872 votes, the Conservatives came second with 12,680 and the smaller, more centrist Liberal Democrats got 9,420.

Both results were a blow to Sunak, who, since becoming prime minister last year following the brief and disastrous leadership of Liz Truss, has failed to close a persistent double-digit opinion poll deficit against the opposition Party. Labor.

By contrast, Labour’s conference in Liverpool the following week presented a more unified and confident image of a party that sees itself as close to power.

Friday’s results are the latest in a succession of electoral setbacks for Sunak. In July, Labor won a by-election in Selby and Ainsty, northern England, toppling a Conservative majority of more than 20,000 votes.

Earlier this month, Labor ousted the Scottish National Party from the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency. Success in Scotland during the next general election could significantly improve Labour’s prospects of forming the next government.

Conservative officials downplayed Friday’s results, pointing to the low number of voters who went to the polls and the circumstances surrounding the resignation of lawmakers who had represented the two districts.

But Curtice, the polling expert, said “no government has so far lost to the main opposition party – in a by-election – a seat as safe as Tamworth”. He also recalled that the Conservatives had lost a similar election in the same region, then called South Staffordshire, in 1996.

The following year, the Labor Party won a landslide victory in the general election under Tony Blair.

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