UK (Parliament Politic Magazine) –On Friday, the Labour Party in Britain handed a significant setback to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party. They secured victory in two parliamentary seats that were previously considered strongholds for the Conservatives. Labor’s leader, Keir Starmer, emphasized that these wins demonstrated a desire for change among voters in anticipation of the upcoming national election.
This dual defeat represents a notable decline in support for the ruling Conservative Party, which had emerged victorious in the past four national elections. It also signals a potential path for Labour to reclaim power for the first time since 2010, especially with the next election anticipated to take place next year.
Pressure on Rishi Sunak
By-elections are typically challenging for the ruling party, but the magnitude of the defeat in these two long-standing Conservative-held parliamentary seats intensifies the pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He assumed office almost a year ago, following a period of scandals and turmoil within his party under previous leadership.
Keir Starmer, who has strategically shifted his Labour Party towards the center of the political spectrum, asserted that these election results highlight Labour as the “party of the future. “It is clear that the voters here have turned their back on a failed Tory (Conservative) government. They’ve had enough of the decline of the last 13 years and they are crying out for change’’ he said.
On the stage in Mid-Bedfordshire, a region situated approximately 50 miles (80 km) to the north of London, the Prime Minister was accompanied by his newly elected Member of Parliament.
Notably, Labor’s victory in Mid-Bedfordshire marked a significant turnaround, as they overcame a substantial deficit of nearly 25,000 votes. This represents the largest margin the party has successfully bridged in a by-election since 1945. Furthermore, Labour achieved a remarkable feat by overturning a substantial majority in Tamworth, a predominantly rural constituency located in central England.
A Shift in Vote Sentiment
This marked the second most significant swing from the Conservatives since World War Two, demonstrating a shift in voter sentiment. While some Conservatives had already come to terms with the likelihood of losing these two seats, there remained a sense that Prime Minister Sunak had an opportunity to work towards narrowing the substantial lead that Starmer’s party had established in opinion polls.
It’s worth mentioning that the Conservative Party had only emerged victorious in one out of the last 12 by-elections during this parliamentary term, with half of these contests arising from the resignations of politicians due to misconduct.
Greg Hands, who serves as the campaign chief for the Conservatives, emphasized the significance of the low voter turnout. He highlighted the need for the Conservative Party to devise a strategy to mobilize their traditional supporters and encourage them to participate in the electoral process.
The by-elections in Mid-Bedfordshire and Tamworth were triggered by the resignations of politicians with close ties to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Nadine Dorries stepped down amid a dispute over her inability to secure a parliamentary role in the upper chamber.
Struggle of Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak, a 43-year-old former investment banker, has sought to rebrand himself as a bold reformer, departing from his previous image as a cautious technocrat who helped restore Britain’s credibility after political scandals. However, he faces challenges with voters expressing concerns about issues such as high inflation, economic stagnation, and lengthy waiting times for the state-run health service.
Despite his efforts to present himself as a decisive leader focused on economic recovery, Sunak still trails Labour in the polls, with the opposition party holding a consistent double-digit lead over the Conservatives for over a year. In a recent speech at his party’s conference, Sunak attempted to position himself as a strong decision-maker addressing public demands to balance climate change goals and immigration policies.
While these domestic policy shifts haven’t yet led to a significant change in the polls, Sunak may be aiming to establish himself as a statesman before the upcoming election. Currently, he is in the Middle East, where he is working to encourage countries to prevent an escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
A Conservative lawmaker has voiced the opinion that both Rishi Sunak and his finance minister, Jeremy Hunt, should consider a “radical rethink” of their strategies. They are encouraged to explore options such as tax cuts in an effort to attract and win over voters.