UK’s governing Conservative Party has suffered two heavy defeats in a trio of special elections, with the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats winning two of the seats in Northern and Southwest England, while Tories managed to hold onto former premier Boris Johnson’s seat in suburban London.
Rishi Sunak was expected to become the first British prime minister to lose three parliamentary seats in one day, but he narrowly won the west London seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, in the middle of the economic crisis, scandals, and surging inflation that the Tories are grappling with.
The results of the Thursday elections will be a hammer blow to conservatives ahead of next year's expected general election, as the Labour Party won the seat of Selby and Ainsty in northern England by 16,456 votes to 12,295, overturning its biggest deficit at a by-election since World War II.
“For too long Conservatives here and in Westminster have failed us,” said the winning candidate Keir Mather in his victory speech, reiterating the “negligence and complacency” of the Conservatives.
In the southwestern England seat of Somerton and Frome, the Liberal Democrats won by 21,187 to 10,179, with winning candidate Sarah Dyke hailing a "stunning and historic victory" and criticizing the "woeful government".
“We have been let down and taken for granted. This government is too busy being a circus of chaos -- enough is enough,” she stressed.
The Tories were also expected to lose Johnson's former seat, but won by 13,965 votes to 13,470, signaling a lack of public support for the Tories.
Winning candidate Steve Tuckwell said the "number one" issue was London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of a tax on polluting vehicles to outer London boroughs.
However, heavy defeats in the other two contests leave Sunak increasingly vulnerable ahead of a possible general election next year, with a six-week parliamentary break providing relief.
The main opposition Labor Party currently enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls and is set to regain power for the first time in more than a decade. It has now won six by-elections since March last year, two of which were taken from the conservatives.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip race began after Johnson's scandal-plagued resignation as an MP last month.
He stepped down after learning that a cross-party parliamentary committee concluded he had deliberately lied to lawmakers about quarantine parties during the Covid pandemic lockdowns.
Johnson's ally Nigel Adams resigned shortly after running for the term, leaving Selby and Ainsty in a by-election.
A third vote was held in Somerton and Frome after its Conservative MP David Warburton stepped down after admitting to using cocaine.
Sunak, who was not seen on the campaign trail, sought to present a business-as-usual image but privately informed MPs to expect the worst.
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