Tories and Labour neck and neck in battle for Nadine Dorries seat, poll shows

Labour activists say survey shows ‘two-horse race’ in Mid Bedfordshire, amid warnings Lib Dems could split vote

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Saturday 16 September 2023 16:39 BST
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<p>Party leaders Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and Ed Davey</p>

Party leaders Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and Ed Davey

Labour and the Conservatives are neck and neck in the byelection battle for Nadine Dorries’ old constituency of Mid Bedfordshire, new polling has revealed.

The Survation survey offers evidence that a split in the “progressive” vote could allow Rishi Sunak’s party to hold onto the seat despite wider unpopularity.

Campaigners are pushing Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form an unofficial electoral pact so only one of the big parties pushes to take the blue wall stronghold.

The new poll for Labour Together – which puts Labour and the Tories on 29 per cent – will add to pressure on Ed Davey to accept that Keir Starmer’s party has the best chance of overturing a 24,000 Tory majority.

The Lib Dems are languishing in third place on 22 per cent in the contest, set to take place on 19 October. Reform UK is on 7 per cent, while independent candidate Gareth Mackey has 6 per cent.

The Survation found poll also found that large proportion – 27 per cent – of people in the seat who are planning to vote remain undecided, with Labour activists pouncing upon the results to encourage Lib Dem supporters to switch to Sir Keir’s party.

Josh Simons, director of Labour Together, said the polling “clearly shows this is a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives”.

He added: “After 13 years, Britain needs the Conservatives out and Keir Starmer’s Labour in. Voting Labour is the best and only way for voters in Mid Bedfordshire to send a message to this shambolic Tory government.”

However, the latest poll suggests that Labour has lost its lead. An Opinium poll in June put Labour on 28 per cent, the Tories on 24 per cent and the Lib Dems on 15 per cent.

A source for Sir Ed’s party said the poll showed Labour had “stalled” because they only gained 1 per cent in a month, while the Lib Dem vote share had “surged” since then. They added: “We are fired up by this poll, which shows we are on track to win with 5 weeks to go.”

Keir Starmer leafleting in the constituency of Mid Bedfordshire

Polling guru Prof John Curtice has said the vote could “collapse” but they could still “hang on” because of an almost even vote split between Labour and the Lib Dems.

Tory peer and elections expert Robert Hayward also said Rishi Sunak’s party had a good chance of winning. “Keir Starmer’s determination to prove he can appeal to all parts of the country has surprised the Lib Dems,” he told The Independent.

The Compass campaign group have warned that the “ghost” of the recent Uxbridge by-election should loom large over Mid Bedfordshire – pointing to the Tories hanging on despite Boris Johnson’s unpopularity.

Lib Dem officials have argued that there is a natural ceiling to the Labour vote in Mid Bedfordshire because of the demographics in the rural constituency.

Ed Davey with Cllr Emma Holland-Lindsay, the candidate for the Mid Bedfordshire

Mr Davey made his fifth visit to the home counties seat on Saturday, where he will spoke to voters in rural villages. He said “lifelong Conservative voters are turning to the Liberal Democrats to send this government a message”.

Mr Dorries finally formally resigned earlier this month having pledged to leave back in early June over her failure to gain a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.

The arch Johnson loyalist was furious at failing to win a peerage in her former boss’ resignation honours – alleging that “posh boy” Mr Sunak had blocked it.

The ex-culture secretary has claimed that No 10 is “pushing a line” that her delayed book launch is because she has broken the ministerial code and has been silenced.

Her book The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson, had been scheduled for release at the end of September to coincide with the start of the Tory. But the published announced a delay until November for legal checks.

Ms Dorries denied the book had been delayed because of ministerial code issues. “What they [No 10] don’t seem to get is that it’s not about me or my time in office, it’s all about them. It’ll be worth the wait.”

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