By-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood: Labour’s double triumph

Brighton UK -10 20 2022: Kier Starmer gives speech at the TUC Conference 2022
Author Alexander Tatiev
Category Columnists, People, Town
Date February 19 2024
Reading Time 3 min.

By-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood: Labour’s double triumph

Labour secured a resounding victory in the by-elections held in traditionally Conservative constituencies of Wellingborough and Kingswood, dealing another significant blow to the Tory party. These wins foreshadow impending seismic shifts in British politics, as general elections are just around the corner.

In Wellingborough, Labour managed to attract nearly half of the constituency’s population to their side garnering 45.9% of the votes, outstripping the Conservatives by over 18,500 votes. This difference amounted to an unprecedented lead of 28.5% the second-largest swing from Tory to Labour in a by-election since World War II. Similarly, in Kingswood, where the Tories previously held a majority of 11,000 votes, Labour achieved a notable swing of 16.4%, receiving 44.9% of all votes. These results indicate a significant shift in voter sentiment and underscore their desire for change.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attributed the victories to the party’s transformation, emphasising that Labour offers thoughtful solutions to problems created by the Conservatives. According to him, the party’s popularity extends beyond their traditional base and resonates with voters who previously supported the Tories and even those who had not participated in elections before.

Conservative Party Chairman Richard Holden acknowledged the defeat, attributing it to the complex local context of the by-elections, such as the dismissal of disgraced former MP Peter Bone (accused of harassment and sexual misconduct towards his subordinate) in Wellingborough and the resignation of incumbent MP Chris Skidmore (who resigned in protest against environmentally damaging initiatives of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet) in Kingswood.

Holden also noted significantly lower turnout compared to previous elections. Turnout in Kingswood was 37% of registered voters, and in Wellingborough, it was 38%. Both figures were roughly half of what they were in 2019 but still close to the average for by-elections in this parliamentary session.

The consequences of these defeats pose additional challenges for the Sunak-led party, whose popularity already lags far behind Labour, as indicated by all national polls. Labour’s Damien Egan, who won the majority of votes in Kingswood, attributed the success to growing discontent with the government’s policies, especially amidst economic troubles. He stated that the Tories’ 14 years of rule “have sucked hope out of the country.”

Another cause for concern for the ruling Conservatives was the unexpectedly high percentage obtained by candidates from the far-right Reform UK party. They garnered 13% and 10.4% of the vote, confidently securing third place, marking their best result since 2021 when the party changed its name from the Brexit Party to Reform UK.

Wellingborough and Kingswood became the ninth and tenth constituencies in a series of Conservative defeats in this parliamentary sessionsuch poor results have not been shown by any ruling party in the last 60 years. And although Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg urged not to exaggerate the event, emphasising that people do not attach special significance to by-elections and many conservative-minded voters simply did not turn out to vote, the figures obtained caused considerable concern among his fellow party members. Rees-Mogg believes that one of the main tasks for the Tories now is to attract voters who voted for Reform UK, which is more realistic than trying to win over Labour supporters.

It should be noted that these victories were much needed for Keir Starmer and his party! This week, Labour faced a barrage of criticism for abandoning its main promise to spend £28 billion a year on “green” projects. Additionally, Labour was forced to withdraw support for its candidate in the upcoming by-election in Rochdale due to his antisemitic comments. But now, as they say, the ball is back in their court, although it is still too early to relax. And Starmer does not tire of reminding Labour of that.