Rishi Sunak had a bloody nose today as Labor increased its majority in the Chester by-election – while the Tories recorded their worst performance in that seat for 190 years.
In the Prime Minister’s first major election test, local councilor Samantha Dixon emerged victorious by a margin of 10,974 votes – well ahead of the 6,100 won in 2019.
Although Labor was expected to win, the Conservatives’ nearly 14% swing will set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street.
It is the party’s worst performance in the Chester city seat since 1832, and confirms opinion polls suggesting Keir Starmer is on course to secure a majority in the general election.
Labor MPs quickly began branding Mr Sunak a ‘serial loser’, although the Tories said there was some comfort that their vote share remained above 20%.
The contest was sparked by the resignation of Labor MP Christian Matheson, who resigned from his seat in the House of Commons after complaints of “serious sexual misconduct” were upheld by a parliamentary watchdog.
Mr Matheson, who denied the allegations, faced a four-week suspension and was asked to resign by Labor before quitting.
But campaigners argued the main factors were the forced resignation of Boris Johnson and the market chaos that ended Liz Truss’ short stint in Number 10.
Labour’s Samantha Dixon celebrates early today after winning the Chester by-election
CITY OF CHESTER BY-ELECTION: RESULTS
Samantha Dixon (Labour) 17,309 (61.22% vote share, +11.58% from 2019)
Liz Wardlaw (Conservative) 6,335 (22.40%, -15.93%)
Rob Herd (Liberal Democrat) 2,368 (8.37%, +1.53%)
Paul Bowers (Green) 787 (2.78%, +0.15%)
Jeanie Barton (British Reform) 773 (2.73%)
Richard Hewison (Join EU) 277 (0.98%); Cain Griffiths (UK Independence Party) 179 (0.63%); Howling Laud Hope (Monster Raving Loony Official Part) 156 (0.55%); Chris Quartermaine (Freedom Alliance) 91 (0.32%)
After Ms Dixon defeated Conservative candidate and NHS nurse Liz Wardlaw, Labor hailed the result as sending a “clear message” to Mr Sunak and his new administration.
In a victory speech after the result was announced, Ms Dixon said: ‘People in Chester and across the country are really worried.
“Worried about losing their home because they can’t pay mortgage payments or rent, worried about whether they can turn on the heat, worried about whether they can put food on the table for their families.
“This is the price of 12 years of Conservative government. The government, which has wreaked havoc on our economy, destroyed our public services and betrayed those who trusted them in the last general election.
Election officials confirmed turnout was 41.2 percent, with a total of 28,541 votes cast in the December poll.
Labor was expected to take the seat, having won it in 2019 for the third consecutive time with a majority of 6,164 votes.
This time around the party won over 61 per cent of the vote and a 13.76 per cent swing from the Tories, with Ms Wardlaw securing 6,335 votes, or 22.4 per cent.
Ms Dixon told reporters she believed many people across the country felt the same as voters in Chester.
“It’s just that here people have had the opportunity to express how they feel,” she said.
Deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner is expected to travel to Chester later to celebrate the result with the new MP, who will now take her seat two years before the next general election.
Samantha Dixon is congratulated on her victory in the Chester City by-election early this morning
Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Alison McGovern said: ‘The people of Chester have sent a clear message to the Conservative government of Rishi Sunak that they are fed up with the Tory regime and want the change proposed by Labour.
“After the Tories wrecked our economy, it’s clear only Labor can be trusted to help families across the country make ends meet,” said the MP for Wirral South.
“Sam will be a great MP for Chester and a strong voice for Chester residents in the Tory cost of living crisis.”
The result is the latest partial election defeat suffered by the Conservatives.
The last two by-elections, which took place on the same day in June, have been a disaster for the Tories, with Labor snatching Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats securing historic victory in Tiverton and Honiton.
Samantha Dixon said voters in Chester and elsewhere were ‘worried’ about the cost of living crisis
The result, which comes just over a month into Mr Sunak’s term as prime minister, is unlikely to be seen as a referendum on his leadership.
But it nonetheless deals a blow to the party, which faces an uphill battle to stay in power in the upcoming national poll.
The country faces a bleak outlook, after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement last month ushered in a new wave of public finance tightening as the UK heads into recession and soaring economic growth. inflation compresses income.
With many households struggling with rising energy bills, rail strikes and a planned walkout by nurses are also threatening to cause serious disruption in the run-up to Christmas.
Mr Sunak is seen as having steadied the Tory ship since taking office after Liz Truss’ disastrous Prime Minister.
But there have been few signs of a rebound in the polls, with YouGov research yesterday suggesting that Labour’s lead has widened to 25 points.
The Conservatives had 22% support, down three points from last week, and far behind Labor at 47%. Worryingly for Mr Sunak, support for Reform UK rose four points to 9%.