The Labour Party is celebrating what they are hailing as a “political earthquake” after claiming resounding victories in the by-elections held in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire. The stunning outcomes have been seen as significant indicators leading up to the next general election. The Conservative Party, who previously held significant majorities in both constituencies, suffered a substantial swing in support towards Labour.
In Tamworth, the Conservatives were defending a massive majority of 19,600. However, Labour managed to secure a remarkable swing of 23.9 percentage points, completely eradicating the Conservative advantage. This result represents the second-highest-ever swing to Labour in a by-election. In Mid Bedfordshire, Labour achieved an unprecedented feat by overturning the largest numeric majority ever held by the Tories since 1945. This rural seat had been under Conservative control since 1931, with a substantial majority of 24,664 in the 2019 general election.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer proclaimed, “These phenomenal results demonstrate that Labour is back and committed to serving the working people while redrawing the political map.” He interpreted these victories in traditionally Conservative strongholds as a clear indication of the public’s desire for change and trust in their reformed party to deliver it.
The by-elections were triggered by the high-profile departures of the previous MPs in each area. In Mid Bedfordshire, former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries resigned with resentment after being denied a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list. In Tamworth, Chris Pincher stepped down following allegations of drunkenly groping two men at an exclusive London club. The subsequent handling of the incident contributed to Mr. Johnson’s departure from 10 Downing Street.
The Conservative Party attempted to dismiss these results as temporary setbacks, blaming the circumstances surrounding the previous MPs for the defeat. Health minister Maria Caulfield suggested that the outcome did not indicate any significant momentum behind Labour or their chances of forming a majority in the next general election. She argued that Keir Starmer was not viewed as a credible alternative solution by voters. However, political expert Professor Sir John Curtice delivered a stark warning to the Conservatives, stating that unless they can drastically and radically reverse their fortunes, they are headed for defeat in the next general election. He further cautioned that votes could shift to both Labour on the left and Reform UK on the right.
Labour candidates, Sarah Edwards in Tamworth and Alistair Strathern in Mid Beds, both scored narrow majority victories over their Conservative rivals. In her victory speech, Ms. Edwards called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “do the decent thing and call a general election.” Mr. Strathern emphasized that nowhere is off-limits for the Labour Party. Peter Kyle, a shadow cabinet member and head of the campaign in Mid Bedfordshire, described these victories as a “political earthquake” that sends an undeniable message to Westminster and Rishi Sunak, demanding better for the country.
While the Liberal Democrats had hoped for better results, they still found cause to be positive about their performance. Despite coming in third in Mid Bedfordshire, they doubled their vote share, prompting them to believe that if replicated in a general election, they could win “dozens of seats off the Conservatives.”
The by-election results were announced on the anniversary of former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s resignation, which undoubtedly presents a headache for Rishi Sunak as he concludes his first year in office. Meanwhile, he was out of the country in Saudi Arabia, on a tour of the Middle East following the recent conflicts between Hamas and Israel.
The landslide victories secured by the Labour Party in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire signal a potential shift in the political landscape. Labour’s success in traditionally Conservative strongholds, coupled with the significant swings in support, highlights the public’s appetite for change. These by-election outcomes have undoubtedly rattled the Conservative Party and put them on notice that time is running out to reverse their fortunes before the next general election.