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UK Conservatives hold on to seat in parliamentary by-election amid low voter turnout

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows a packed chamber during a prime minister's question session in the House of Commons, London, the UK, on April 3, 2019. (Photo by AP)

The UK’s ruling Conservative Party has held on to a parliamentary seat in southeast London with a narrow victory amid a reduced voter turnout since two years ago.

Following the election for the Old Bexley and Sidcup constituency on Thursday, Tory Louie French was announced as the UK’s newest MP with 51.5 percent of the votes, after the death of former cabinet minister James Brokenshire, who had secured 64.5 percent of the votes in 2019.

The Tory member’s winning of the contest comes amid a turnout of just 34 percent, which meant the Conservatives’ majority was slashed from almost 19,000 in 2019 to 4,478, after the ruling party experienced a series of scandals in recent weeks.

Asked how allegations of corruption might have affected the Tories’ performance, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News agency on Friday that, “Of course people have concerns mid-term with any government’s performance. And of course people have been concerned about what’s happened over the past couple of months.”

Meanwhile, Labour MP Shabana Mahmood said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be “worried” by the outcome, arguing that “more and more people are concluding that Keir Starmer would make a better prime minister of this country.”

As the polling results came out, the Labour Party saw a 10-percent swing in its favor.

Mahmood, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, stressed that the party would be “within touching distance” of a majority government if the results were to be replicated in a general election.

“The prime minister should be worried because, even by by-election standards, a 10.3% swing towards the Labour Party in such a strong Tory area, if that was replicated at a general election, that would put us within touching distance of a majority Labour government. So I take a lot of heart from that result,” she said.

Analysts believe that the Conservatives’ much reduced margin of victory is due to the party’s recent corruption allegations and Johnson’s chaotic speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Earlier this month, Conservative lawmakers, backed by Johnson, narrowly voted to halt a proposed 30-day suspension of MP Owen Paterson, who had been found guilty of repeatedly lobbying for two firms, which paid him nearly three times his annual salary.

Furthermore, according to the analysts, Johnson’s speech to the CBI, which was widely ridiculed, could have had an important share in the public’s distrust in the party. The prime minister, in his speech, had fumbled and talked about his visit to the Peppa Pig World theme park.


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