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by Staff reporter
20 October 2023
Double Labour victory as party wins Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth by-elections

Double Labour victory as party wins Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth by-elections

Labour has overturned two huge Conservative majorities to win the seats of Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth, in a further sign the party is set for victory at the general election next year.

Polling expert Prof John Curtice said the results were "extremely bad news" for the Tories, adding these Labour victories were reminiscent of those secured by the party in the run-up to 1997.

Labour overturned a Conservative majority of more than 24,000 in the Mid Bedfordshire, delivering the constituency its first ever Labour MP in a huge blow for the Conservative government.

Alistair Strathern, a former teacher, will be Mid Bedfordshire's new Member of Parliament. 

And in Tamworth, Sarah Edwards secured the seat for Labour - overturning a majority of almost 20,000.

The party's leader Keir Starmer said that overturning two major Tory majorities showed Labour "is back in the service of working people and redrawing the political map".

Both by-elections recorded swings of over 20 per cent away from the Conservatives to Labour.

Curtice said the result was "very clearly in the top 10 worst Conservative performances against the Labour Party" and was a sign the party is in "deep electoral trouble".

Writing for the BBC, the leading psephologist added: "There are disturbing echoes for the Conservatives in the results of by-elections in the parliament of 1992 to 1997, at the end of which the party crashed to defeat.

"In the last three years of that parliament, there were four by-elections in which there was a swing of more than 20 per cent from Conservative to Labour. Now we have had three in just three months.

"Moreover, one of those four by-elections in the 1992-1997 parliament was in Tamworth itself, albeit the seat was then called South East Staffordshire. In April 1996, Tony Blair's New Labour party captured the seat with a 22-point swing. History has repeated itself almost exactly."

Both by-elections took place in unusual circumstances.

Tamworth was called following the resignation of former Conservative MP Chris Pincher after the Commons Standards Committee recommended he be suspended for eight weeks in response to accusations of groping two men in a central London club. Pincher had recently held the seat as an independent after he lost the Tory whip in 2021. 

In September, Pincher lost his appeal against the recommended suspension, and subsequently resigned. 

Labour's Sarah Edwards gained 11,719 votes. Tory candidate Andrew Cooper won 10,403 votes, giving Labour a majority of 1,316. But the size of the previous Tory majority means Labour achieved a swing of 23.9 per cent, its second biggest since 1945.

Mid Bedfordshire was triggered when the seat's previous Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries, finally announced her resignation in August after having announced her intention to step down as MP two and a half months earlier in protest at not being offered a peerage.

Labour won 13,872 votes while the Conservatives gained 12,680. The Lib Dems took 9,420 votes in the tightly fought three-way race. 

The party's double win follows a similarly significant by-election victory in Selby and Ainsty, North Yorkshire in July, where Labour overturned a Conservative majority of more than 20,000.

It also comes just two weeks after taking Rutherglen and Hamilton West from the SNP, with a swing of 20 per cent.

Read more on our sister website, PoliticsHome.

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