The British Conservatives kept the seat of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday, July 21, but largely lost another in difficult and potentially ominous by-elections before the legislative elections in 2024 while a last chair is still in play.
The polling stations closed at 10 p.m. (11 p.m. in France) and the results are revealed on Friday morning. They will set the tone for the election year ahead, with the majority at its lowest in the polls after 13 years in power, and for Labour, well placed to enter Downing Street in 2024.
Of the three seats of MPs renewed in Conservative strongholds, the latter kept that of ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the constituencies of Uxbridge and South Ruislip (west of London). According to the surprising result, Steve Tuckwell narrowly won against Labor by 13,965 votes against 13,470. Labor was however well placed despite the unpopular forthcoming extension of the tax on polluting vehicles, decided by the town hall of his camp.
Boris Johnson had resigned from Parliament with a bang due to the aftermath of “Partygate”, the holiday scandal in Downing Street during the pandemic.
By contrast, the Tories largely lost the seat of Somerton and Frome in south-west England. The incumbent, David Warburton, who was accused of using cocaine, was replaced by the Liberal Democrat Sarah Dyke, in favor of 21,187 votes against 10,179, while the Tories had a majority of 19,000 votes before the election.
Labor also won in Selby and Ainsty, Yorkshire (north England), where Tory MP Nigel Adams slammed the door in the wake of Boris Johnson, of whom he is an ally.
Speaking to Tory MPs on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged that the 2024 legislative elections were going to be a “tough battle” and he called his troops to unity, reported one of the elected officials present at the meeting, Jonathan Gullis.
The 43-year-old prime minister, who entered Downing Street in October 2022 after the forced departures of Boris Johnson, swept away by scandals, and Liz Truss, dislodged in less than two months, however avoided a scathing zero out of three.
However, even if the former investment banker seemed to bring a semblance of stability and professionalism to his arrival, his confidence rating fell this week to an all-time low, with 65% of Britons having an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the YouGov institute.
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The high inflation observed for a year, despite a slowdown to 7.9% in June, has weighed on purchasing power, and Thursday’s elections coincided with strikes by railway workers and doctors in hospitals.
Redesign in sight
At the same time, Rishi Sunak praised his government’s action, congratulating himself that four laws “major” received royal assent on Thursday, in particular the controversial texts on illegal immigration and the introduction of minimum service in the event of a strike. “When it comes to improving people’s lives, I’m focused on action, not words”he said in a statement.
Reinforcing the idea of an announced defeat in the legislative elections next year, the popular defense minister, Ben Wallace, announced last week that he would not stand again, like around fifty other deputies.
He will also leave the government at the next reshuffle, expected in September. Unless Rishi Sunak renews his team this week to regain the initiative.
Opposite, Labour, well ahead in the polls, is preparing for power, under the leadership of Keir Starmer, who has refocused his training after the period of the very left Jeremy Corbyn.
Having become a cantor of budgetary responsibility, he however drew the wrath of some of his troops this week by opposing better social assistance for large families. Perceived as not very charismatic, he is judged unfavorably by the majority of the British.