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POLITICS EXPLAINED

Can Labour be confident of inflicting yet more Tory by-election defeats?

Two big tests are already under way in Wellingborough and Kingswood, but there could be even more to come, as Sean O’Grady explains

Thursday 11 January 2024 19:35 GMT
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Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves with the Labour candidate for Kingswood, Damien Egan, on the doorstep in Gloucestershire on Thursday
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves with the Labour candidate for Kingswood, Damien Egan, on the doorstep in Gloucestershire on Thursday (PA)

When Boris Johnson led the Conservatives to victory at the December 2019 general election, his overall parliamentary majority of 80 seats was the biggest for any government since Tony Blair in 2001 (167), and for any Tory government since Margaret Thatcher in 1987 (102).

Impressive as this was, commentators weren’t sure how to characterise it: “landslide” normally denotes three figures or thereabouts; “working” perhaps 40-plus. At any rate, it seemed substantial and unassailable at the time, but seems less so now. Attrition is making life much more hazardous for the Tory whips. A constant stream of by-elections and whip withdrawals has reduced Rishi Sunak’s majority to about 50, and his fractious party has enough assorted rebels easily to exceed that on key votes. Soon, that majority may be denuded even further by yet more by-elections…

Who’s next for a by-election?

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