- The opposition Labor Party overturned two large majorities
- The Prime Minister defeated the pressure on Sunak
- Opinion polls are seen as a test of popular support ahead of national elections
LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Britain’s Labor Party crushed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives on Friday, winning two previously safe parliamentary seats in victories that showed voters want change in the next national election, leader Keir Starmer said.
The double defeat marked a dramatic drop in support for the ruling Conservatives, who have won the past four national votes, and suggests Labor is on track to win power for the first time since 2010 in an election expected next year.
While so-called by-elections are often lost by the ruling party, the scale of the defeat in the two parliamentary seats the conservatives have held for years piles pressure on Sunak, who took office nearly a year ago after the ruling party was mired in scandals. and chaos under previous leaders.
Starmer, who has moved his Labor closer to the centre, said the two votes showed “Labour has returned to the service of working people and redrawn the political map”.
“Winning these Tory (Conservative) strongholds shows that people overwhelmingly want change and are willing to put their faith in our reformed Labor Party,” he said in a statement.
Labor won the Mid-Bedfordshire constituency, about 50 miles (80 km) north of London, overcoming a majority of almost 25,000, the party’s biggest deficit in a by-election since 1945.
Enjoying the second-highest swing from the Conservatives since the Second World War, Labor overturned a large majority in another former Conservative stronghold of Tamworth, a large rural constituency in central England.
Several Conservatives had already resigned after losing two votes, with former lawmakers blaming the complicated circumstances of their resignations for handing the victory to Labor. But Sunak said there was still time to try to claw back the sizeable lead enjoyed by Starmer’s party in many opinion polls, but needed to make a bold offer to voters.
The Conservatives have won just one of the last 12 by-elections in this parliament, half of which were due to politicians resigning for misconduct.
Greg Hands, the Conservatives’ campaign chief, pointed to the low turnout, saying the Conservatives needed to find a way to get their traditional supporters out to vote.
“I don’t see any enthusiasm for labor,” he said.
Sunak, a 43-year-old former investment banker, has tried to portray himself as a bold reformer, not the cautious technocrat who restored Britain’s credibility after scandals and turmoil.
But with voters angered by high inflation, economic stagnation and long waits to access state-run health care, Chung is running out of time and opportunity to close the gap on Labor, which has a double-digit poll lead over the Conservatives. More than a year.
In a speech to his party’s conference this month, Sunak tried to portray himself as a tough decision-maker who focused on reviving the economy while meeting public demands to water down steps to meet climate change targets and stop the boats. ‘Tackling illegal immigration.
Domestic measures have so far failed to change the polls, but Sunak hopes to establish himself as a politician ahead of the next election. He is now in the Middle East, where he is encouraging countries to avoid further escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
One Conservative lawmaker said Sunak and his Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt needed a “serious rethink”, urging the government to deliver tax cuts to win over voters.
The resignations of politicians close to former prime minister Boris Johnson led to contests in Mid-Bedfordshire and Tamworth.
Former minister Nadine Dorries resigned in succession after failing to win a seat in the upper house of parliament, while Chris Fincher resigned in Tamworth after being suspended from parliament for knocking men in a London club.
Since 1931 the Conservatives have won the Tories by a majority of over 1,100. In Tamworth Labor candidate Sarah Edwards won by more than 1,300.
Senior Labor lawmaker Peter Kyle said his party had delivered a “political earthquake”.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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