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‘People want change’ says Starmer as Sunak suffers double election blow

16 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Conservative Party candidate Helen Harrison listens the Labour Party candidate Gen Kitchen give her speech after being declared winner in the Wellingborough by-election. Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak has suffered a double defeat at the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections, with Sir Keir Starmer hailing the results as a sign the public wants change.

The twin blows will compound the Prime Minister’s woes, coming the day after it was officially announced that the UK had entered a recession at the end of 2023, and mean the Conservatives have suffered more by-election defeats than in any single Parliament since the Second World War.

Labour overturned majorities of 11,220 and 18,540, delivering the Government’s ninth and tenth by-election defeats of the current Parliament and securing its second largest swing from the Conservatives ever.

Gen Kitchen secured Wellingborough with 45.8% of the vote, while Damien Egan won Kingswood with 44.9% of the vote.


The results provided Labour with a boost after a U-turn on the party’s pledge to spend £28 billion on green projects and an antisemitism row that forced it to drop its candidate for another by-election in Rochdale in two weeks’ time.

Reacting to the victories, Sir Keir said: “These are fantastic results in Kingswood and Wellingborough that show people want change and are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party to deliver it.

“By winning in these Tory strongholds, we can confidently say that Labour is back in the service of working people and we will work tirelessly to deliver for them.

“The Tories have failed. Rishi’s recession proves that. That’s why we’ve seen so many former Conservative voters switching directly to this changed Labour Party.

“Those who gave us their trust in Kingswood and Wellingborough, and those considering doing so, can be safe in the knowledge that we will spend every day working to get Britain’s future back.”


Conservative deputy chair James Daly insisted that, despite the “disappointing” results, there was “no love” for Sir Keir and denied there was any evidence that voters had switched directly from the Tories to Labour.

The results also saw Reform UK secure more than 10% of the vote for the first time, potentially adding to pressure on the Prime Minister from the right of his party.

In Wellingborough, the Conservatives suffered one of their worst defeats since the Second World War, with the swing of 28.5% representing the second largest ever from the Conservatives to Labour.

Ms Kitchen said: “The people of Wellingborough have spoken for Britain. This is a stunning victory for the Labour Party and must send a message from Northamptonshire to Downing Street.”

The Northamptonshire constituency also saw Reform UK secure its best by-election result ever, with deputy party leader Ben Habib winning 13% in the heavily pro-Leave constituency.

Mr Habib told Sky News the result was “remarkable”, adding: “People are absolutely fed up with the manner in which this country is being governed.”

In Kingswood, where the result was announced shortly before 2am, Labour’s Damien Egan defeated Conservative Sam Bromiley, securing 11,176 votes and a majority of 2,501.

In his victory speech, Mr Egan thanked the activists that helped him win and the people of Kingswood for putting their trust in him.

He said: “It’s a trust that I promise to repay, to show you that politics can be different and it can make a difference.

“In Kingswood, as across the country, 14 years of Conservative government have sucked the hope out of our country with a feeling that no matter how hard you work, you just can’t move forward.

“And with Rishi’s recession we’re left again paying more and getting less. It doesn’t have to be this way, you know it, I know it, we all know it.

“When the Prime Minister finally finds the courage to give the people a say, we’re going to need each and every one of you again to come out and vote and make sure your voices are heard.”

Defeated Conservative candidates Sam Bromiley and Helen Harrison left their respective counts in Kingswood and Wellingborough without speaking to reporters.

John Major

The defeats mean the Conservatives have suffered more by-election losses in this Parliament than any previous government since the 1960s, surpassing the eight defeats experienced by John Major between 1992 and 1997.

But senior Conservative MP Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg sought to play down the importance of the results for predicting what will happen at the general election.

He told PA: “By-elections are an opportunity for people not to turn out, to protest and at ensuing general elections they don’t give a consistent guide to what happens.”

Sir Jacob acknowledged the Tories would need to “learn” from the results, saying: “Conservative Party votes are most likely to come from people who stay at home or who voted Reform.

“How do we win them back to the Tory family? People who share many views and values with us.

“By delivering things they believe in and that means lower taxation, taking more of the advantages of Brexit, with more of the removal of EU retained law, it means doing less on the green issue that is making people cold and poor, and helping revitalise our economy.”

HOPE not hate, the UK’s leading anti-fascist campaign group, has warned about what Reform’s vote in the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections mean for British politics.

Georgie Laming, Director of Campaigns at HOPE not hate said: “The Reform Party’s success last night will be read as a cue within the Conservative Party to lurch further and faster to the Radical Right. This would be destructive for communities across the UK.

“Reform are not the slick party they claim to be. They need proper scrutiny – Reform base their policies on racism, crank conspiracy theories and scapegoating.”

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1 month ago

Yeah, reform, who voted Tice in.
That is his politics.

Now, about the stuffing the Tory party got, I heard Mogg mumbling about Labour not getting over 50% of the vote but the haunted pencil is more than happy to accept brexit vote. Point of order as well, he was there for GB news but the BBC were all over him.

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
1 month ago

Rishi Sunak did not lose, the Tories lost.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

…but they made begging illegal…

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