Britain's ruling Conservative Party suffered a severe defeat to Labor in two by-elections on Friday, a “disappointing” result. and bodes ill for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before the legislative elections scheduled for next year.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, whose party is credited with a large lead in the polls, hailed the capture of these two conservative strongholds as a “historic result”, which “redraws the map politics”.
From the constituency of Mid-Bedfordshire, in the center of England, he hoped to convince voters that “the party of the future”, “of national renewal” is the Labor Party, which he has refocused since he replaced the very left-wing Jeremy Corbyn three years ago.
Interviewed in Cairo, where he was finishing his tour of the Middle East in the context of the war triggered by Hamas attacks against Israel, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said these were “obviously disappointing results”, but it was “important to remember the context”.
“Mid-term elections are always difficult for existing governments, and there are local factors that also come into play,” he told the media.
The Labor candidate, Sarah Edwards, won by 1,316 votes the seat of Tamworth, in central England, formerly guaranteed to the Conservatives who had a large majority there since the last poll.
The Conservatives lost the seat of Mid-Bedfordshire by 1,192 votes, which they had won by 24,664 votes in 2019. This is the most crushing defeat for the Conservatives in a by-election since 1945.
This result is worrying news for Rishi Sunak, who next week celebrates the first anniversary of his entry into Downing Street.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, October 15, 2023 in London © POOL – HANNAH MCKAY
The 43-year-old ex-banker initially brought a semblance of stability after the scandals of the Boris Johnson era and the brief stint of Liz Truss.
But his popularity is lower and he is struggling to revive himself, striving to present himself as an embodiment of change even though his party has been in power for 13 years.
According to political science professor John Curtice, “we can reasonably think that the conservative party is facing the prospect of losing heavily” the next legislative elections, scheduled for January 2025 at the latest.
This defeat is The announcement “perhaps even more heavily than in 1997”, during the triumph of Labor Tony Blair, the professor from the University of Strathclyde stressed on the BBC.
– Johnson era –
Neither camp displayed excessive optimism before the vote, which was held on Thursday.
Labour itself recognized that these two votes were being held in a “context” difficult” locally.
The president of the Conservative Party, Greg Hands, on October 1, 2023 in Manchester, United Kingdom © AFP – JUSTIN TALLIS
The president of the Conservative Party, Greg Hands, estimated that the British are “satisfied with the work that says Rishi Sunak”, linking these two defeats to a context which dated before the Prime Minister came to power.
The departure of outgoing MPs in these two constituencies bears the mark of the Boris Johnson era, pushed to resign in 2022 after a succession of scandals, first and foremost that of parties organized in Downing Street in violation of anti-Covid rules. /p>
In Mid-Bedfordshire, the legislative by-election was organized due to the resignation of Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, an ardent defender of the former Prime Minister. The former culture minister quit her post as an MP after being refused a seat in the House of Lords, and accused the current head of government of abandoning the “fundamental principles of conservatism”.
In the constituency of Tamworth, voters had to nominate the successor to Chris Pincher, at the heart of the affair which was fatal to Boris Johnson. The MP had grabbed the buttocks of one man and squeezed the private parts of another one drunken evening at the end of June 2022 at the very exclusive Carlton Club in London.
Subjected last year to intense pressure to say what he knew about Chris Pincher's past on previous incidents, Boris Johnson had recognized an “error” in appointing him a few months earlier.
After asserting the opposite, Downing Street ended up recognizing that Boris Johnson had been informed in 2019 of old accusations against Mr. Pincher, ensuring that he had “forgotten” them.
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