Conservatives’ by-election scorecard since the 2019 general election

The Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire results cap off a challenging run of by-elections for the Tories

Ian Jones,Alex Ross
Friday 20 October 2023 11:34 BST
Mid-Bedfordshire by-election result has made history, says Labour’s Alistair Strathern

Rishi Sunak suffered a humiliating double by-election blow as Labour overturned huge Tory majorities in Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire on Thursday night.

The heavy defeats for the Conservatives made for a horrific night for the party which leaves the Labour on course for a major win in the next general election.

In Tamworth, Labour’s Sarah Edwards defeated Conservative candidate Andrew Cooper, overcoming a 19,000 majority to win by 1,316 votes.

That victory saw a mammoth swing of 23.9 per cent from Tories to Labour - the biggest majority swing in British by-election history.

In Mid-Bedfordshire, Alistair Stathern overturned a 24,000 majority to defeat Tory rival Festus Akinbusoye by 1,192 votes - a swing of 20.5 per cent.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that voters “overwhelmingly want change”, adding: “They’re ready to put their faith in our changed Labour party to deliver it.”

Meanwhile for the Tory Party, questions are being asked over Sunak’s leadership as he prepares of a general election by January 2025 at the latest.

The party will point to the fact governing parties often suffer at by-elections - but the latest results mean the Conservatives have now lost eight by-elections since the 2019 general election, out of the 12 in total:

Hartlepool (May 2021): GAIN

The Conservatives won Hartlepool from Labour on a swing of 16 percentage points, in the first by-election of the current Parliament.

Labour had held the seat since it was created in 1974. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the result as support for his Government’s “levelling up agenda”.

Chesham & Amersham (June 2021): LOSS

The Liberal Democrats won the Buckinghamshire constituency of Chesham & Amersham from the Tories on a huge swing of 25.2 points, in what would become the first in a run of Lib Dem by-election gains at the expense of the Government.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey celebrated by using a yellow hammer to demolish a “blue wall” of model bricks.

The Lib Dems won the seat of Chesham & Amersham from the Tories on a huge swing of 25.2 points

Old Bexley & Sidcup (December 2021): HOLD

The Conservatives held this London seat in a by-election triggered by the death of MP James Brokenshire.

North Shropshire (December 2021): LOSS

The Lib Dems’ next victory came just six months after Chesham & Amersham, taking North Shropshire from the Conservatives on an even bigger swing of 34.1 points.

This was the second largest by-election swing against any government since the Second World War, at contests where a seat had changed hands.

Newly-elected MP Helen Morgan celebrated by using a long yellow pin to burst a large blue balloon.

MP Helen Morgan celebrated by using a long yellow pin to burst a large blue balloon

Southend West (February 2022): HOLD

The Tories held this Essex seat in a by-election triggered by the murder of MP David Amess.

Wakefield (June 2022): LOSS

The Conservatives suffered two by-election losses on the same day in June 2022: the first time since 1991 that a government had endured two concurrent defeats.

Labour took Wakefield in West Yorkshire on a swing of 12.7 percentage points.

Tiverton & Honiton (June 2022): LOSS

The other defeat came in the Devon seat of Tiverton & Honiton.

The Liberal Democrats won the constituency with another huge swing, this time of 29.9 points.

The Lib Dems celebrate victory in in Tiverton & Honiton

Selby & Ainsty (July 2023): LOSS

The period between the Tiverton & Honiton and Selby & Ainsty by-elections saw the Conservatives go through a hat-trick of leaders: Boris Johnson, Liz Truss (for 49 days) and Rishi Sunak.

The Selby & Ainsty by-election in North Yorkshire was one of three to take place on the same day in July 2023 and saw Labour win the seat from the Tories on a swing of 23.7 points – at the time, Labour’s second-largest swing at a by-election since 1945.

Somerton & Frome (July 2023): LOSS

The Liberal Democrats clocked up another win in the Somerset seat of Somerton & Frome, taking it from the Conservatives on a swing of 29.0 points.

Sir Ed Davey celebrated by firing a cloud of yellow confetti from a blue circus cannon.

The Lib Dems has more success with victory in the Somerton & Frome by-election

Uxbridge & South Ruislip (July 2023): HOLD

The third by-election to take place on the same day in July this year saw the Conservatives hold the outer London seat of Uxbridge & South Ruislip, in a contest triggered by the resignation of its MP and former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Labour needed a swing of 7.6 points to take the seat – far smaller than the swing the party achieved in Selby & Ainsty – but managed only 6.7 points.

Mid Bedfordshire (October 2023): LOSS

In the first of another double-bill of defeats, the Conservatives lost Mid Bedfordshire on a swing to Labour of 20.5 percentage points. It was the largest numerical Conservative majority (24,664) to be overturned by Labour at a by-election since 1945.

Tamworth (October 2023): LOSS

Labour’s victory at Tamworth saw a swing of 23.9 points: just enough to beat the swing at Selby & Ainsty and become the new second-largest swing by Labour at a by-election since 1945.

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