Keir Starmer left his home in Camden, London in the early hours of Friday morning in the dark. It’s 70 kilometers from Camden to mid-Bedfordshire, where the British opposition leader stood in front of election posters two hours later and spoke to loud cheers from the crowd. The sun is now up, and rumor has it this has less to do with Starmer’s appearance than the lateness of the day. However, the mood in Mid Bedfordshire on Friday morning in particular, and in the Labor Party in general, would have thought anything was possible. “That night was unbelievable,” Starmer exclaimed, later using words like “historic” and “political earthquake”.
Two by-elections took place in England on Thursday, one in Mid Bedfordshire, north of London, and one in Tamworth, near Birmingham. Both constituencies were considered “safe seats” for the Tories, and they won clear majorities in both. Voters in both regions voted to leave the EU in 2016; In Tamworth, 68 per cent were in favor of Brexit. But now Labor won both constituencies on Thursday night.
Labor has never won in Mid Bedfordshire and the constituency has been Tory blue for a hundred years. In Tamworth, the swing to Labor was less than 24 per cent, the second largest voter swing in British post-election history. Tamworth (the block was called something else until the late 1990s) did not go to the Tories for almost 150 years, in 1997. During that time, Labor won Tamworth – and with Tony Blair won national elections too.
A pointer to the next general election?
Mid-term elections are often seen as an indicator of “general elections”, and the next general election is already scheduled for next year. “History is about to repeat itself,” noted poll expert John Curtis said on the BBC on Friday morning. Voter turnout in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire was low, but not unusual: it was similarly low in Tamworth in 1997. “It’s understandable that some Tory MPs are feeling a bit uncomfortable this morning,” Curtis said. There have now been three by-elections since the summer of this year with Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire in which the swing for Labor was over 20 per cent.
Greg Hands told news channels Friday morning that it was “definitely disappointing,” but tried to play down the outcome as little as possible. Will he resign as General Secretary of the Conservative Party? Hands said no, of course not, but he wasn’t being asked the question without reason. The last time the Tories lost two constituencies in one night was a year ago. Subsequently, the then General Secretary Oliver Dowden resigned.
The Tories have already lost seven seats
From summer 2021 There have already been 19 by-elections in England, the Tories won four of these but lost seven. In Mid Bedfordshire, former culture minister Nadine Dorries was a Tory MP who was also known as a participant in “Jungle Camp”. Doris resigned because Rishi Sunak did not agree to be prime minister, and he rarely misses an opportunity to assert this publicly – to Tories, Johnson, accused of being a liar and humiliated in parliament, was “the best prime minister this country has ever had.”. Boris Johnson’s tenure was marked last year by the “Fincher scandal”: MP Chris Fincher, long supported by Johnson, had to resign over sexual harassment allegations. Pincher was MP for Tamworth.
Greg Hands said the circumstances leading up to these by-elections must be taken into account because they were “somewhat unfortunate”. However, if you ask around the party, you won’t find many who share this view. Asked if he would be betting on an election win next year, one of SZ’s Tory MPs said: No, I wouldn’t. Many in the party do not share the optimism that Hands and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – who are currently in the Middle East because of the situation in Israel – are trying to convey.
Especially since the next by-election is already coming up. This week, long-serving Tory MP Peter Bohn was suspended after an inquiry panel found he had sexually harassed a young employee. Peter Bone has been the MP for Wellingborough, between London and Birmingham, since 2005. The majority of the bone in Wellingborough is indeed described as “comfortable”.
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