Labour has pulled off an historic double byelection victory and inflicted two devastating defeats on the government.
Sir Keir Starmer’s party overturned two massive Conservative majorities and rewrote the history books with their twin wins in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire.
Starmer said he hopes to “follow in the footsteps” of Tony Blair and take Labour “from opposition into power,” while prime minister Rishi Sunak – speaking in Egypt – said the results are “obviously disappointing”.
In Nadine Dorries’ old Mid Bedfordshire seat, Labour overturned the biggest Tory majority it has managed since 1945 – almost 25,000 – managing a 20.5% swing even though it actually polled fewer votes than in 2019.
The collapse in the Conservative vote – by people switching or staying at home – was replicated in the West Midlands constituency of Tamworth, vacated by Chris Pincher, where Labour managed a 23.9% swing to overturn a near 20,000 majority.
Starmer said” people are fed up to the back teeth with 13 years of decline under this government. They want a fresh start.”
The Labour leader said it is a still a “big” task to win a general election and told supporters in Tamworth the party is “redrawing the political map” with such byelection victories.
Mid Beds became a three-way race for what was once a true-blue Tory seat – the Conservatives have it since 1931. The Liberal Democrats picked up support from disillusioned Tories in the rural areas while Labour benefitted in the towns.
In the end, Labour took 34.1% of the byelection vote (up from 21.7% in the 2019 general election) to the Conservatives’ 31.1% – almost half of what they managed in 2019 when Dorries was re-elected with an enormous 59.8% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats were big gainers, almost doubling their share of the vote from 12.6% in 2019 to 23.1%.
Tamworth was a straight fight between Labour and Tories that saw the Conservative vite collapse from 66.3% share in 2019 to 40.7%. It was not enough to stop Labour which surged leapt from 23.7% in 2019 to 45.8%.
Voter vitality has increased since Brexit to such a level that there is a real chance of a huge collapse in Conservative support on the next election night – as witnessed in Mid Beds.
Renowned political scientists and polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice said a landslide bigger than New Labour’s 1997 triumph under Tony Blair is a possibility following these results.
Curtice told the BBC the byelection results left the Conservatives facing “the serious prospect of losing the next general election heavily and even more heavily than in 1997”.
The twin victory was Labour’s first double win for 60 years and caps a great autumn hattrick for the party, coming so soon after they trounced the SNP with a 20% swing to take the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat.
Conservative MPs who are not standing down at the next election will be considering their own majorities and political futures.
“The biggest lesson,” the Financial Times reports, “is that the opinion polls are about right: and that without some kind of change, Labour are heading to Downing Street and the Conservatives to the knacker’s yard.”
Sunak – in Cairo to discuss the Israel-Hamas war – tried to give Tories some succour, saying it is “important to remember the context — midterm elections are always difficult for incumbent governments and of course there are also local factors at play here.”