London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – The governing Conservatives, led by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, suffered a setback on Friday as they lost two strategically important parliamentary seats. However, to the surprise of many, they managed to retain Boris Johnson’s former constituency, dealing a blow to the opposition Labour Party.
Despite this setback, the Conservatives’ narrow victory in Johnson’s seat has provided Sunak with some much-needed breathing space. He now has an opportunity to focus on narrowing Labor’s significant lead in the polls. Sunak’s strategy involves tackling high inflation and alleviating the cost-of-living crisis, both of which are crucial issues that need to be addressed before the anticipated national election next year.
British Prime Minister Escapes Election Defeat
Sunak wasted no time in celebrating the victory, considering it a clear indication that the national election was far from being a foregone conclusion. Seated in a cozy cafe within his constituency, he eagerly shared his thoughts with the reporters present. “The message I take away is that we have to double down, stick to our plan and deliver for people.”
However, the magnitude of the challenge became evident with the defeat of the once-secure Conservative parliamentary seat of Selby and Ainsty in northeast England. In a by-election, Labour managed to overturn the largest Conservative majority since World War Two. This loss serves as a stark reminder of the demand for change that exists within the electorate, as highlighted by Labour leader Keir Starmer.
Furthermore, the Conservatives faced another significant setback in a separate vote. Nevertheless, the narrow victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, located just outside central London, ensured that Rishi Sunak avoided the ignominy of becoming the first British leader in over fifty years to lose three by-elections in a single day, albeit by a margin of fewer than 500 votes.
‘’Conservative former minister David Jones told Reuters his party now needed to push economic policies to rebuild support in traditionally strong areas. “With up to 18 months until the election, there is time to do it,” he revealed.
Safety First Strategy
Sunak, a former finance minister and investment banker, has endeavored to utilize his technocratic leadership skills to restore the credibility of the Conservative Party. This comes after a series of scandals last year, which ultimately led to Johnson’s resignation as prime minister. Additionally, economic turmoil prompted his successor, Liz Truss, to resign after a mere six weeks in office.
It is anticipated that Sunak will soon undertake a reshuffling of his senior ministers, to assemble a formidable team to contest the upcoming election.
The Conservative party had been prepared for the potential loss of all three seats, given the persistently high inflation, economic stagnation, escalating mortgage rates, industrial unrest, and extensive waiting times for the utilization of the state-run health service.
According to national opinion polls, Sunak’s Conservatives are currently lagging behind Labour by approximately 20 points. This indicates that the governing party will face significant challenges in securing a fifth consecutive national election victory.
However, Labor’s defeat in Uxbridge highlights their potential struggle in attaining a decisive parliamentary majority. Renowned pollster John Curtice has stated that the outcome of a national vote is likely to result in a hung parliament, as indicated by the Uxbridge result.
Starmer has faced criticism from certain members within his party for maintaining a steadfast approach towards public finances. He has been resolute in his refusal to make any uncosted promises and has occasionally abandoned policies that he deems unaffordable for a potential Labour government.
“The tide is still a long way out for the Conservatives and they still have an awful long way to go before they look as though they might have a chance of being able to retain power after the next general election,” Curtice revealed to BBC.
The Uxbridge by-election was triggered by Johnson’s surprising resignation from parliament last month. This decision came after he was discovered to have made deceptive statements regarding parties held in Downing Street during the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson vehemently denied misleading parliament.
The triumphant Conservative candidate, Steve Tuckwell, attributed his party’s success to local factors rather than national ones. He specifically highlighted the concern of London’s Labour mayor expanding the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) to encompass suburban regions like Uxbridge. This extension resulted in certain voters having to pay higher fees for their vehicles.