Old Bexley and Sidcup: Conservatives hold safe seat but see majority slashed in by-election

The Conservatives have held the safe suburban London seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in by-election.

Their candidate Louie French is the UK’s newest MP after winning the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election, and secured more than half the votes in the contest, which was triggered by the death of former Cabinet minister James Brokenshire.

But there was a 10% swing to Labour and two-thirds of eligible voters chose to stay at home, meaning the Tory majority was slashed from almost 19,000 to 4,478.

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Reform leader Richard Tice came in third, claiming his party was now “on the upward march”, while the Greens in fourth and Liberal Democrats in fifth both lost their deposits.

Conservative candidate Louie French celebrates victory in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election at Crook Log Leisure Centre in Bexleyheath, Kent.

Mr French used his acceptance speech to pay tribute to his “good friend” Mr Brokenshire, who died from lung cancer in October.

He said: “This has been a tough contest, which has been fought with dignity and respect.”

The by-election took place against a difficult backdrop for the Tories, after weeks of allegations about sleaze, Boris Johnson’s chaotic speech to the Confederation of British Industry, claims that lockdown rules were broken in No 10 last Christmas and the imposition of coronavirus restrictions following the emergence of the Omicron stage.

But Mr French insisted it was local issues which dominated the campaign.

“My focus will now be delivering on those promises that I made during the campaign – get our fair share of London’s police officers, securing more investment for local schools and hospitals, protecting our precious green spaces.”

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He promised voters he would “work tirelessly to repay the trust that you’ve placed in me and I will not let you down”.

Mr French, a local councillor, said: “This is the greatest honour of my life. And I hope it inspires people to achieve their own dreams.”

Turnout in the contest was just 34%, down from the almost 70% who voted in the 2019 general election.

Shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves told the PA news agency: “We’re pleased with the result tonight.

“This is a Conservative stronghold, somewhere that had a 19,000 majority at the last general election and what we’ve seen tonight is that majority being slashed. There’s been a 10% swing over to Labour this evening.

“We’ve been knocking on doors for weeks here and finding many, many Conservative voters that have said actually I’m not going to vote for them this time, I’m going to vote for Labour.

“I think it’s clear that we’re winning back the trust of people and it’s a remarkable result for us in a Tory stronghold.”

Labour’s Daniel Francis secured 6,711 votes, almost 31% of the total, up from the 23.5% the party received in 2019.

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News: “This is a good result for a governing party mid-term.

“As you well know, governing parties shouldn’t expect to do well mid-term. We actually secured over 50% of the vote in Bexley. I pay tribute to our excellent candidate and the campaign team there.

“This idea that Labour have made some surge ahead is really for the birds. They’ve actually got about the same vote share as they secured under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. Keir Starmer couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to the by-election, so I am really not terribly worried about Labour.”