Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election: Conservatives retain their blue seat

Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election: Conservatives retain their blue seat

The Tories took the secure seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in the first of a series of closely watched parliamentary byelections.

Louie French was elected as the new MP, replacing the much-loved former minister James Brokenshire, who died in October of lung cancer.

After a relatively short campaign, French won 11,189 votes, ahead of his closest challenger, Daniel Francis du Labor, who got 6,711.

The result saw the Tory majority in the 2019 general election of nearly 19,000 people reduced to just 4,478 – but given that the turnout was deemed low, at 34%, the share of the vote will be evenly distributed. .

Votes for the Tory candidate are down 13.06% from the last election, while Labor saw their share rise by 7.4%. Richard Tice, who represented Reform UK, obtained a share of the vote for the first time of 6.59%.

French paid tribute to his “good friend” Brokenshire and said it was a “huge honor” to wear his former colleague’s blue rosette, in a victory speech after the count.

It was a “tough competition … conducted with dignity and respect,” French added, swearing that as a new MP he would “work with the government” to meet voters’ priorities – checking names, protecting green spaces, as well as improving the school. and hospital services and standing up to Labor mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

French called his election to Parliament “the greatest honor of my life”, and thanked his family, supporters and the Conservative Party, promising to “work tirelessly to repay the trust you have placed in me.”

Francis told the Guardian after the result that if a similar increase in the share of the vote for Labor were seen in a general election, “a very large number of Tory MPs would lose their seats”, and added: “We are on a way back to government.

Voters began to mention more towards the end of the campaign “the sordid ones surrounding the prime minister and his competence,” Francis said. “It really was shown tonight in the number of Tories who stayed home or moved on that we’ve seen in the swing. “

Although the South London constituency has been blue since 1950 and was represented by former Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath in the House of Commons, the result will help calm nervousness within the party over Boris Johnson’s leadership.

Members of the public arrive to vote at a polling station in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election Photograph: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Some Tory voters who spoke to The Guardian during the campaign expressed dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister’s leadership – especially in the wake of a damaging sordid scandal.

Other Conservative canvassers and advisers said they had heard similar frustrations from some who normally supported the party, as the first by-election to be held in London looms since Johnson won the general election from 2019.

Labor insiders had refuted the prospect of a shocking outcome like that seen in Chesham and Amersham in June – when the Liberal Democrats took over from the Tories – even though governments have traditionally been punished in midterm byelections.

Labor had sought to lower the Tory share of the vote below 50%, but failed to do so and effectively conceded within minutes of the count starting.

Ellie Reeves, the shadow attorney general and MP for Lewisham West and Penge, said it had “always been a safe Tory seat and we don’t expect that to change.” She added that voters’ patience was running out with Johnson, but “winning it was never within our reach.”

Keir Starmer has been bolstered by a recent stabilization in national polls, seeing Labor equalize with the Tories for the first time since the start of 2021.

The result at Old Bexley and Sidcup will immediately ease the pressure on Johnson; however, other by-elections will follow. Later in December, the Tories will try to keep North Shropshire – a seat left vacant by Owen Paterson after the disgraced former MP was found guilty of a blatant violation of paid lobbying rules.

A by-election will also be held in Southend West following the murder of Sir David Amess. However, the Tories are expected to be the only major party to challenge it, as Labor and Liberal Democrats plan not to field a candidate out of respect.


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