UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. Image: AP
Britain's Conservative MPs have warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the major Opposition Labour party may be en route to flip the UK's general elections after sealing a byelection victory in two of its strongholds -- Selby and Somerton -- the districts with deep Conservative roots since 1945. The last record in the constituencies was set in the Mid Staffordshire byelection as Labour overturned a Conservative majority of 14,654 in March 1990. Labour had needed a swing in the share of 17.9 percentage points in the 2019 general elections but this week, they managed to garner 23.7 points in the by-election, the largest since they clutched victory in Dudley West defeating the Conservatives in December 1994 by 29.1 points.
Labour is ready for a huge swing in the general elections, and the Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer was now on course to win the keys to the number 10 Downing Street, an MP from Rishi Sunak's Conservative party, Nigel Mills, told British newspaper The Independent. The Tory MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire said that the results of the Selby byelection were “clearly not good," adding that the “red wall” colleagues across the north and Midlands shall now worry about losing more seats.
“It reinforces that we’re in a really difficult position. Nobody is in any doubt we have a battle in our hands. If you lose a 20,000 majority and the opposition poll 20 points ahead of you then you’re going to lose a hell of a lot of seats," Nigel Mills said.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, center, and newly elected Conservative MP Steve Tuckwell, center right, speak at the Rumbling Tum cafe in Uxbridge. Credit: AP
Addressing a crowd of supporters, Labour Party's leader Keir Starmer, Deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner and his namesake Keir Mather said that it is “a day of firsts” as Labour clutched first-ever sweeping victory in the constituencies of Selby and Ainsty. Starmer retorted that he had “always been saying ‘no complacency’” as his party won the byelections. The “first time ever I can say ‘well done Keir’”, said Starmer, addressing MP Keir Mather who won in the northern England city, flipping the seat for Labour that was held by the UK's Conservatives since World War II.
Polls have now closed in Uxbridge, Selby and Somerton and Frome.— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) July 20, 2023
To the thousands of Labour campaigners who have knocked on doors, phoned up voters and supported our brilliant by-election candidates; thank you.
Together, we can build a better Britain. pic.twitter.com/4cuY5W3wG8
A brief relief for the Conservatives came in Uxbridge, a West London district which was formerly held by Johnson where Conservatives managed to hold on to their seat by just 495 votes. This could be credited to the collective outrage by the voters on the pollution tax on the older vehicles that led the Conservatives to retain power there. Mills said Tory MPs take comfort in this win as it "suggests that if we find the right message people will give us a hearing.”
“It’s a warning to politicians that we have to bring people with us [on net zero] – we can’t push things that cost people in a way they can’t afford," Mills stressed.
“The people of Somerton and Frome have spoken for the rest of the country who are fed up with Rishi Sunak’s out-of-touch Conservative government,” Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Tory party had won the two stronghold constituencies by over 35 points in 2019 garnering support from voters by swooning them with a coalition of blue-collar, Brexit-friendly and immigration policies. In Somerton and Frome, a southwestern district, the centrist Liberal Democrats flipped the seat for the Conservatives that they had last won by 29 points. According to the Ipsos National Opinion Polls, the UK's opposition Labour Party is now leading with 22-point over the Conservative Party, splitting the latter's voter base in the traditional Conservative cities.
UK's Opposition Labour party leader Keir Starmer. Credit: Twitter/@Keir_Starmer
“It is clear just how powerful the demand for change is,” Keir Starmer, the Labour Party’s leader, said during an address after the party won by majority.
UK's Prime minister, Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, cautioned that the outcome of the byelection shows that the general election to be held in fall next year, isn’t “a done deal.”
It is the privilege of my life to be elected as the Labour MP for Selby and Ainsty.— Keir Mather (@Mather_Keir) July 21, 2023
Together we have made history and delivered a fresh start for our community.
Now, it is time for a fresh start for Britain. pic.twitter.com/WvCzxChT0P
Thursday's losses expose a crack in British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's, the former Goldman Sachs banker's struggle to tackle the strike-ridden nationalized healthcare services, contain illegal migration and control soaring inflation. “Today, the Conservatives don’t have credibility on the economy, and Rishi doesn’t have long to resolve that” before next year’s election," Robert Hayward, a Conservative Party member of the House of Lords, reportedly said.