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Labour hails ‘political earthquake’ after double by-election win | Politics News


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Labour has hailed a “political earthquake” after overturning huge Conservative majorities in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire.

Sir Keir Starmer claimed his party was “redrawing the political map” after dealing a double by-election blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – in results viewed as significant markers ahead of a general election next year.

The contests were triggered by the high-profile departures of the areas’ previous MPs.

Politics latest: Second by-election defeat on terrible night for Tories

In Tamworth, the Conservatives were defending a 19,600 majority, but a 23.9 percentage point swing to Labour saw that eradicated.

The historic result, declared shortly before 3am, was the second-highest-ever by-election swing to Labour.

Mid Bedfordshire saw the largest numeric Tory majority ever overturned by Labour at a by-election since 1945.

The Conservatives have held the rural seat since 1931, winning with a 24,664 majority in 2019.

Sir Keir Starmer said: “These are phenomenal results that show Labour is back in the service of working people and redrawing the political map.

“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.”

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries’ long drawn-out resignation in Mid Bedfordshire came in anger at being denied a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.

In Tamworth, Chris Pincher resigned after being found to have drunkenly groped two men at London’s exclusive Carlton Club last year – an incident which helped trigger Mr Johnson’s exit from No 10 because of his handling of the situation.

The Tories sought to portray the by-elections as mid-term blips, exacerbated by the difficulties surrounding the previous MPs.

Health minister Maria Caulfield was among the government figures claiming that despite the result, there was “no momentum” behind Labour and it did not mean the party was on track to form a majority at the next election.

“What I hear on the doorstep is they don’t feel that Keir Starmer is an alternative solution. We’re not seeing people voting for Labour in the way that they would need to form a government,” she told Sky News.

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How can you say Keir Starmer isn’t popular after the double by-election defeat?

However, elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice said the two results were “extremely bad news” for the Conservatives and suggested Mr Sunak was on course for general election defeat.

“This isn’t destiny, but it is a pointer and it is a pointer that, unless the Conservatives can fairly dramatically and fairly radically turn things around, then they are in truth staring defeat in the face in 12 months’ time.”

He warned the Tories risked seeing votes drift to Labour on the left and Reform UK on the right.

In Tamworth, Labour’s Sarah Edwards defeated Tory Andrew Cooper by a majority of 1,316 while in Mid Beds, Labour’s Alistair Strathern took the seat with a majority of 1,192 over his Tory rival Festus Akinbusoye.

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Tamworth by-election winner speaks to Sky News

Ms Edwards used her victory speech to call on Mr Sunak to “do the decent thing and call a general election”, while Mr Strathern said his win showed “nowhere is off limits for this Labour Party”.

Shadow cabinet member Peter Kyle, who ran the campaign in Mid Bedfordshire, said Labour had delivered a “political earthquake” to the Conservatives.

“It is one that is sending an unignorable message to Westminster and to Rishi Sunak that this country deserves better,” he said.

Labour was initially tempering expectations ahead of polls closing, describing the chances of winning either seat as a “moon shot”.

While Tamworth was seen as a two-horse race between Labour and the Tories, the Lib Dems were also seen as being in the running for Mid Bedfordshire – prompting concerns that the governing party might squeak through on a massively reduced majority because of a split in the anti-Conservative vote.

Despite coming third in a seat they had hoped to win, the Lib Dems were positive about the result, saying they doubled their vote share in Mid Bedfordshire and if that was mirrored in a general election, it would mean winning “dozens of seats off the Conservatives”.

Mr Sunak was out of the country as the by-election results came in, spending the night in Saudi Arabia on a tour of the Middle East in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks on Israel.

The results were announced a year to the day after Mr Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss resigned as prime minister and leaves him with a headache as he ends his first 12 months in post.

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