close
Wednesday April 24, 2024

UK Conservatives have ‘work to do’, says Sunak, after by-election defeats

Sunak said the circumstances surrounding the by-elections were “particularly challenging”

By REUTERS
February 17, 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts his weekly cabinet meeting on February 9, 2024. — X/@RishiSunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts his weekly cabinet meeting on February 9, 2024. — X/@RishiSunak

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday that twin defeats for his Conservative Party in parliamentary by-election results overnight showed the party had more work to do ahead of a national vote expected later this year.

“We look at the results, very low turnout, (it) shows that we’ve got work to do, to show people that we are delivering on their priorities, and that’s what I’m absolutely determined to do,” Sunak told reporters during a visit to southeast England.

The Conservatives lost the seats in Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire to the Labour Party which secured its second largest by-election swing away from the Tories in one of of the contests.

Sunak said the circumstances surrounding the by-elections were “particularly challenging” but claimed that turnout of below 40 percent in both constituencies means there “isn’t a huge amount of enthusiasm” for Labour.

“People want change and are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party to deliver it,” its leader Keir Starmer said as he hailed the “fantastic results”.

In power since 2010, the Conservatives are widely tipped by pollsters to lose the general election that Sunak has said will be held in the second half of the year.

Labour overturned majorities of 11,220 and 18,540, delivering the government’s ninth and tenth by-election defeats of this parliament and securing its second largest swing from the Conservatives.

Gen Kitchen secured Wellingborough with 45.8 percent of the vote, while Damien Egan won Kingswood with 44.9 percent.

The results provide Labour with a boost after a U-turn on the party’s pledge to spend £28 billion on green projects and an anti-semitism row that forced it to drop its candidate for another by-election in Rochdale in two weeks’ time.

The defeats pile more pressure on Sunak following the news that the UK entered a recession at the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, Reform UK scored its best by-election results after targeting disgruntled voters on the right, securing more than 10 percent of the vote for the first time in a by-election.Its deputy leader Ben Habib won 13 percent of the vote in Wellingborough, while Rupert Lowe secured 10 percent in Kingswood.