How bad will the trauma of Rishi Sunak’s by-election be? – News Block

A critical week for the prime minister could result in three by-election losses in a development that would culminate a dismal few months for Rishi Sunak and his Conservative party. It comes as voters head to the polls in three key constituencies on Thursday, the same day MPs will bid farewell to their parliamentary offices for the summer as the House adjourns for recess.

Voters for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Selby and Ainsty, and Somerton and Frome have been represented by Conservative MPs since at least 2015, but with the ruling party still languishing in the polls, the House could be about to welcome three new opposition parliamentarians.

Uxbridge and South Ruislip were, of course, once represented by Boris Johnson, before the former Prime Minister resigned his seat in Parliament after being handed a report from the privileges committee which found he had lied to MPs about the match”.

Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, was a close ally of Johnson’s and announced he would step down a day later. His move came amid controversy over Johnson’s resignation honors list, on which, to his surprise, Adams did not appear.


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In April 2022, Somerton and Frome MP David Warbuton was suspended from the Conservative party pending the outcome of an inquiry into allegations of harassment and drug use. In early June 2023, he announced his resignation as deputy because he felt he had not been given a fair hearing on the allegations, which he denies.

Expectations are now leaning towards the Conservative Party losing all three contests. It means Rishi Sunak could become the first prime minister since Harold Wilson in 1968 to lose three seats in a by-election on the same day.

Such a poor performance by the Conservatives would, in turn, raise new questions about the prime minister’s ability to revive his party’s political fortunes in time for a general election expected next year. Still, it’s no coincidence that the by-election is scheduled for the day the summer recess begins, meaning anti-Sunak talks could be confined to WhatsApp groups rather than members’ tearoom.

But it’s also a crucial week for Sir Keir Starmer, who will want to show that Labor can play on its long double-digit lead over the Conservatives and win in historically unlikely areas.

Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Particularly in Uxbridge, a Labor victory in Johnson’s old seat would give Starmer an important symbolic victory in his bid to bring his party back to power.

On the surface, Uxbridge and South Ruislip appear to be a fairly straightforward Labor win: the Conservative majority in the constituency, at just over 7,000, is by far the smallest of the three seats up for grabs.

But, as always, by-elections develop their own character and the prominence of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s controversial expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has led Conservatives to believe that they might still have a chance.

ULEZ, an area where a tax is applied to cars that do not meet certain emissions standards, will be extended by the Mayor of London to cover the area in August. And unlike much of London, Uxbridge is a car-driving constituency: around four in five households own one car, and one in three own two or more.

Labor candidate Danny Beales, who seems well aware of ULEZ’s prominence in the constituency, has said he has heard “heartbreaking stories” from those who could not afford to upgrade their cars or pay the £12.50-a-charge for day when the ULEZ extends to Uxbridge.

Speaking at a debate in early July, Beales said: “The time is not right to extend the Ulez scheme to the outskirts of London, it just isn’t.”

Khan has also been a conspicuous absentee among Beales’ bureaucrats, despite the fact that he himself will be seeking re-election soon.

Conservative candidate Steve Tuckwell has said the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election on July 20 will be “a referendum” on Khan’s ULEZ.

However, not all conservatives are feeling so optimistic. Senior MP Steve Brine, Conservative chairman of the health and social care select committee, said “long Boris” is to blame for the Conservatives’ expected woes in this week’s by-election.

Asked by BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour program if he expected his match to lose at Uxbridge, Brine replied: “Yeah, it’s another bit of what I call ‘long Boris’, isn’t it?”

Uxbridge, of course, has been a ‘sticky’ constituency for some time. In 2019, Boris Johnson was defending the smallest majority of any prime minister since 1924, just over 5,000 votes. But, despite the best efforts of opposition activists, he increased the majority of it to 7,000.

In all, it would take a seven-point swing from Conservatives to Labor for Sir Keir Starmer’s party to win the constituency. Since Labor needs a 12-point national swing to win a parliamentary majority in a general election, losing here would be seen as a political setback for the party, despite the idiosyncrasies of the contest.

Somerton and Frome

Somerton and Frome is a very different type of Conservative constituency to Uxbridge and Ruislip. A rural seat in Somerset, it was held by the Liberal Democrats until 2015. Since then, however, it has become a relatively safe Conservative seat, with former MP David Warburton winning 56 percent of the vote, a majority of nearly 30 percent, in the 2019 elections.

This time it is a key Lib Dem target and, following elections for a majority of area local councils, which resulted in 10 Lib Dem councilors from 13 wards, Sir Ed Davey’s party will feel confident. In the 2022 local elections, the Liberal Democrats won 40 percent of the vote while the Conservatives won just one councillor.

Indeed, with Labor favored in Thursday’s other election bouts, the Libble Democrats will be looking to build on a string of partial victories since 2021, when they overturned large Conservative majorities in Chesham and Amersham, North Shropshire and Tiverton and Honiton. .

Selby and Ainsty

Elsewhere, on Thursday, a record result could see the Conservatives defeated again.

Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire, a mix of rural towns and villages, has been a Conservative heartland since its inception in 2010. Former MP for the seat Nigel Adams received 20,137 votes in 2019 (60 per cent), while Labor polled 13,858 ( just under 25).

Therefore, Labour’s victory would make electoral history. The highest majority the party has overturned in a by-election is 14,654 votes in Mid-Staffordshire over 30 years ago.

The 18-point swing required for victory would also far exceed Labor’s performances in this Parliament’s by-election.

The latest council election in 2022 also brings hope to Labour, as the party finished just six points behind the Conservatives despite managing to win only four of 15 constituencies within the constituency.

How severe will the trauma be?

In Westminster, the Conservatives are now widely expected to be on course for three defeats in the by-election.

But this means that if Rishi Sunak’s group retains even one of the three available seats, the prime minister might be able to put a positive spin on the results.

For Keir Starmer, on the other hand, a victory at Uxbridge and Selby would vindicate his political and electoral strategy amid growing dismay within his own party over the political trajectory of Labor.

A victory at Uxbridge, despite the party’s ULEZ issues, would be deeply symbolic and in some ways mark a final political triumph for Sir Keir over his political nemesis Boris Johnson.

And success in Selby, which is the 249th most vulnerable seat for the Conservatives, would seem to put Labor firmly on track for a majority in the next election.

Conservative MPs, who might otherwise have considered themselves safe, will begin to question their long-term political prospects. The consequences for Sunak, as his deputies lobby for the prime minister to turn the ship around, could be dire.

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