Conservatives win Sleaford by-election

Labour suffers Brexit backlash in by-election vote ‘disaster’

Labour dropped to fourth place, down from second in 2015

Harry Cockburn
Friday 09 December 2016 10:02

Labour is heading for an “electoral disaster” in 2020, one of the party’s MPs has warned after its poor performance in the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election.

The party came in fourth, taking just 10.2 per cent of the vote, a fall of seven per cent since the 2015 general election, when Labour came second.

The Conservatives won with 53.5 per cent, comfortably beating Ukip in a contest that was seen as a test of Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit vote.

Veteran Labour MP David Winnick said the result was a "appalling" for the party, and said Labour’s leadership needed to shake off its “bunker mentality”.

“Even if one takes into account that the by-election turnout was considerably lower than in the general election, it was an appalling result for Labour,” the Walsall North MP told the Press Association.

“If we were to continue in this way then the indications are 2020 will be an electoral disaster and the possibility of a Labour government very remote indeed.

“The sort of bunker mentality that seems to exist at the moment at the highest levels of the party needs to recognise what is happening in the outside world.”

The Conservative candidate, Dr Caroline Johnson, said in her victory speech that she looked forward to “strengthening the Government's majority in Parliament so Theresa May, our Prime Minister, can get on with the job of triggering Article 50, leaving the European Union and building a country and economy that works for everyone.”

Ukip had hoped to capitalise on the prime minister’s reluctance to reveal the Government’s Brexit plans, but suffered a fall of 2.2 per cent in the vote since the general election.

Victoria Ayling won 13.5 per cent of the vote for the party, with leader Paul Nuttall, who was at the count, hailing a “great result” for the party – his first as leader.

Labour MP Vernon Coaker defended his party's performance, but said Labour's message was lost as Brexit became the key point of debate.

He said: “It was a difficult seat. Let's remember this is a safe Tory seat, Ukip came here expecting to do much better than they did so it's a bad result for them. But clearly for us, this was not the result we might have hoped for.

“The challenge for us was because of Brexit. Everything was about Brexit. The messages about the A&E, the NHS, the messages about infrastructure, all of that got lost to an extent in the swirl around Brexit.

“But we're proud of what we did. We kept our deposit which some people said we were going to lose. Some people said we were going to come fifth, we didn't come fifth.”

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