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UK: Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party suffers two big defeats in by-elections

Labour Party won Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth seats, both considered Conservative strongholds. Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is a frontrunner for the PM post, said that his party is "redrawing the political map" as pressure on Sunak mounts.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee London Published on: October 20, 2023 14:31 IST
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Image Source : AP British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party suffered huge losses in the two by-elections held on Friday, losing the seats of Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth in England to the opposition Labour Party.

While Sunak is currently traveling in the Middle East for crisis talks in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said that his party was "redrawing the political map". In a historic first, the Labour Party's Alistair Strathern won the Mid Bedfordshire by overcoming a 24,664-vote Conservative margin.

Labour's Sarah Edwards also pulled off a 23.9 per cent swing from the Conservatives in Tamworth. “Winning in these Tory strongholds shows that people overwhelmingly want change and they're ready to put their faith in our changed Labour Party to deliver it,” said Starmer.

The historic results mark the second-highest-ever by-election swing to Labour. The Conservative Party suffered two major defeats in three special elections held in July by losing the seats in Selby and Ainsty to Labour and Somerton and Frome to Liberal Democrats.

Former Cabinet minister and Boris Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries’ prolonged resignation in Mid Bedfordshire is believed to have caused much damage in the eastern England seat. On the other hand in Tamworth, British MP Chris Pincher resigned after being found to have drunkenly misbehaved.

Pressure on Sunak mounts

The results of the latest by-elections have solidified Labour’s status as the front-runner ahead of a national election next year, with good chances of defeating Conservatives after four successive losses.

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands blamed the losses on “legacy issues” and said people were “happy with the job Rishi Sunak is doing as prime minister.” He said that the results were “disappointing" but blamed the outcome on Conservative voters not voting.

However, the back-to-back losses have put pressure on the government, particularly Sunak, who has steadied the economy but has not managed to boost the party’s rating in opinion polls, where it consistently lags between 10 and 20 points behind Labour.

Friday’s results confirm polls showing the Conservatives are losing support across the country, from affluent southern voters turned off by Brexit to working-class northern voters who switched from Labour in 2019.

(with agency inputs)

ALSO READ | Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party suffers big defeats in UK by-elections, narrowly avoids whitewash


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