Britain’s ruling Conservatives kept former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s seat on Friday. But they also suffered two setbacks elsewhere in highly scrutinized by-elections that put three seats at stake, before the legislative elections next year.
These results are potentially ominous, as the Tories lost two very large majorities in the constituencies of Somerton and Frome, in the south-west of England, and Selby and Ainsty, in the north of the country.
However, they narrowly kept the former seat of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned with a bang from Parliament due to the aftermath of “partygate”, the holiday scandal in Downing Street during the pandemic.
The surprising result of this partial gives Steve Tuckwell the winner against Labor for the seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, west of London, with 13,965 votes against 13,470. Labor was however well placed despite the unpopular forthcoming extension of the tax on polluting vehicles, decided by the town hall of his camp.
Major reversal of majority
By contrast, the Tories largely lost the seat of Somerton and Frome. The outgoing David Warburton, accused of cocaine consumption, is replaced by the Liberal Democrat Sarah Dyke, in favor of 21,187 votes against 10,179, while the Tories had a majority of 19,000 votes before the election.
And Labor stole the chair from Selby and Ainsty, in Yorkshire, in the north of England, where MP Nigel Adams slammed the door in the wake of Boris Johnson, of whom he is an ally.
However, here again, the government had a comfortable majority of 20,000 votes. But Keir Mather finished in the lead with 16,456 ballots, against 12,295 for the Conservatives.
This is the biggest reversal of majority for Labor in a partial since the Second World War.
A “test” ballot for the legislative elections
These by-elections have set the tone for the upcoming election period, both for the majority, at its lowest in the polls after 13 years in power, and for Labour, well placed to enter Downing Street in 2024.
In front of Conservative MPs on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged that these elections were going to be a “tough battle” and had called on his troops to unite, reported one of the elected officials present at the meeting, Jonathan Gullis.
The 43-year-old Prime Minister, who entered Downing Street last October after the forced departures of Boris Johnson, carried away by scandals, and Liz Truss, dislodged in less than two months, may have avoided zero out of three, the balance sheet remains negative.
And although the ex-investment banker seemed to bring a semblance of stability and professionalism at the start, his confidence rating fell to an all-time low this week, with 65% of Britons having an unfavorable opinion of him according to the YouGov institute. The high inflation observed for a year, despite a slowdown to 7.9% in June, has weighed on purchasing power and Thursday’s elections coincided with strikes by railway workers and doctors in hospitals.
At the same time Rishi Sunak praised the action of his government, welcoming that four “major” laws received royal assent on Thursday, in particular the controversial texts on illegal immigration and the establishment of minimum service in the event of a strike. “When it comes to improving people’s lives, I’m focused on action, not words,” he said in a statement.
This article is originally published on rts.ch