Three by-elections across the United Kingdom were held in West London, Somerset and North Yorkshire with Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Uxbridge), Somerton (Somerton) and Selby and Ainsly (Sleby). To give context, Labour are averaging 15% ahead in the polls with the expectation having been three losses for the Conservatives, one gain for the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party the big winners with two wins. However, the Conservatives shocked with a win in Uxbridge.
A shocker in Uxbridge
In this seat, Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ) was the main campaign tool used by the Tories. This was further emphasised by the newly elected MP not even mentioning Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and instead focusing on the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The result was tight, with news on the night gradually going from a sure bet for Labour to what people presumed would be a few hundred votes to Keir Starmer’s party until the shocking news came out that Labour had called a recount. With this shocking win, that many in Labour still tried to spin as a win in terms of a general election basis, Labour put a lot of pressure on Khan to get rid of ULEZ in order to hold out in outer London.
Labour’s main excuse for losing was that this is a seat with a lack of history for Labour and so they can’t be expected to win. This is something in ordinary times that would be an understanding factor, if it wasn’t for the fact that this term, the Tories have lost seats such as Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, seats that have pretty much been Tory since the day they were created. Labour have generally struggled in by-elections to take the Conservative seats, and I think this is another example of Labour being an opposition that people want to go out to vote for.
The Conservatives using ULEZ as their main voting base shows exactly where they are at the moment – lost. Yes, this is a win for them which will be a massive boost for the party which seems to have a lack of morale. This appears to be a trick that can only be pulled in outer London, as other results show, there is a greater struggle when they don’t have a lynch pin that puts the other parties down, and instead the focus is on their government record.
The other seats
In Shelby, a seat that was won by Blair three times, we saw Labour win with their biggest comeback in a by-election ever, overturning a twenty-two thousand majority in the seat which Nigel Adams resigned over the report into Boris Johnson. The winner, a 25-year-old who will now be the baby of the House. Labour won this in an amazing result, which will boost their confidence in being able to win in the North and take the next general election by storm.
The Conservatives have claimed this result is solely due to being that governments lose by-elections mid term, especially this late into a singular party’s time in office – this though doesn’t hold up reality. In 2005-2010, Labour held 55% of the seats they were defending. For comparison, the Tories have lost 66% since 2019 that they were defending. In 2010, there was a hung Parliament which suggests that these data sets could be highly suggestive that the Labour Party are on for a resounding victory in the next general election and the Conservatives can’t use this as an excuse for why they’re doing terribly. Its of course the caveat that by elections do not mean that results will happen in a similar way in a general election, but we can see in almost every by election since Batley and Spen, people are moving away from the Conservatives, if not in seats but also in vote share.
In Somerton, it was written on the wall with the Liberal Democrats declaring victory very early into the night, and with a majority larger than the amount of votes the Conservatives got, you can see why. It was always going to be hard, a seat that had been marginal in the recent past, a disgraced MP leaving, and the current climate against the Conservatives. This is yet again telling how the Liberal Democrats have a machine in by-elections, which we can all be sure will be out in full force in Central Bedfordshire, a place where in the local elections, the Conservatives once again struggled.