Tories may be facing 'Armageddon' but it's not because voters are excited about Labour – Scotsman comment

Keir Starmer and co can celebrate two huge by-election wins but they need to reflect on why voters are not flocking to their party’s banner

According to Labour leader Keir Starmer, the party has both made history and redrawn the political geography with its by-election wins in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire, both previously Conservative seats with majorities of about 20,000.

Meanwhile, former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, speaking on his Political Currency podcast with former Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, said that while Tamworth was the sort of seat that the Conservatives might have lost at past by-elections but retaken at the next general election, defeat in Mid Bedfordshire meant “Armageddon is coming for the Tory party”. So there was some cross-party agreement about the votes’ significance.

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Rishi Sunak said the results were “obviously disappointing” but it was “important to remember the context”. This was presumably code for the reasons why by-elections had to be held: Tamworth MP Chris Pincher resigned after losing his appeal against a Commons suspension for drunkenly groping two men; Nadine Dorries, a former Culture Secretary no less, announced she would quit as Mid Bedfordshire MP in June but then staged a bizarre sulk that lasted until August after she was not given the peerage she thought she deserved.

Such behaviour was never likely to impress the electorate and, given the state of the country, there were plenty of reasons, even for die-hard supporters, not to vote Conservative. However, the picture may not be quite so rosy for Labour as it initially appears.

In Mid Bedfordshire, the Conservative candidate received about 26,000 fewer votes than during the 2019 general election, but the Labour vote was also down, albeit by 156. In Tamworth, the Labour vote was higher, but only by 800 or so. So, while there may have been some switching, in the main, Tory voters stayed at home. That could change in a general election, when the stakes are higher and Pincher and Dorries are not quite so fresh in the memory.

The message from these by-elections is that voters are unhappy with the Conservatives, even in their heartlands, but Labour is not exactly winning them over. Amid talk of a landslide win, imagine what might happen if the public become excited about Starmer and co.



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