Tory activists are confident the party will hold Old Bexley and Sidcup – the first in a series of closely watched parliamentary by-elections – as polling stations close in the south London suburbs.
Canvassers who have spent the day trying to “get the vote out” said they expected the seat that has voted for the Conservatives since 1950 to remain blue, while admitting that some voters have expressed their displeasure with regard to Boris Johnson.
Some said they had been told by residents that they would not vote, while others promised to switch to other parties, including Labor and British Reform. However, the local Conservative campaign center is said to be “pretty confident”.
The short run started last month after the death of James Brokenshire – a much-loved former minister who died of lung cancer.
The Tory pick to replace him, Louie French, hopes to retain a large chunk of the vote, although the 19,000 majority in Brokenshire is likely to be reduced as turnout is expected to be significantly lower.
Union sources have denied the prospect of a shocking outcome like that seen in Chesham and Amersham, the traditional Tory seat in Buckinghamshire which fell to the Liberal Democrats in June.
After the polls closed at 10 p.m., shadow attorney general Ellie Reeves said: “This seat has always been a safe Conservative seat, and we don’t expect that to change tonight. Yet people are more and more fed up with the Prime Minister’s broken promises… Patience is dwindling with Boris Johnson.
“We ran a positive campaign and people were open to the Labor offer, but winning it was never within our reach. “
Keir Starmer’s party lost one of its traditional seats, Hartlepool, in May, and narrowly retained Batley and Spen only the following month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior cabinet members have made appearances at Old Bexley and Sidcup in recent days, while on Thursday Keir Starmer visited an energy facility in Easington, east Yorkshire.
Labor candidate in Old Bexley and Sidcup, Daniel Francis, told The Guardian last week it would be a “huge challenge” to overturn the siege.
Lord Hayward, a Conservative elections expert, said a shift to Labor in line with its current position in the polls – which is neck and neck with the Tories – on the 2019 election result would maintain the share of the Conservative vote above 55%.
He added that such a result would be “incredibly good for a government in a by-election.”
Conservative MPs and their aides were asked to meet for a ‘dawn raid’ at 5 a.m. – party insiders admitting that while they thought they would take the seat, the larger the majority were. restrained, the more uncomfortable questions it would raise for Johnson about his leadership would be raised.
The Prime Minister has come under pressure from some of his colleagues in recent weeks, after sparking a sordid argument, numerous U-turns and a speech to business leaders that featured meandering anecdotes about Peppa Pig World.
A Tory adviser who recently visited headquarters said reports of party voters had “low motivation” and were “unhappy with Boris” being confirmed on their doorstep. Voters the Guardian spoke to during the election campaign called Johnson a “dumb” and “buffoon,” but complained about Starmer’s lack of effective opposition.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m., with the result expected to be announced overnight around 2 a.m.
The Tories could face a tougher race later this month, with the by-election to replace former Tory cabinet minister Owen Paterson in North Shropshire on December 16. He withdrew from the House of Commons after being found guilty of a blatant violation of the rules of paid lobbying.
Another by-election will be held in Southend West following the murder of Sir David Amess in October, but no date has yet been set.