Rishi Sunak suffers double by-election nightmare as Labour overturn massive majorities in Wellingborough and Kingswood

16 February 2024, 04:42 | Updated: 16 February 2024, 08:19

Labour has won the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections.
Labour has won the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott and Emma Soteriou

Labour has made record gains after overturning two Tory majorities in the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections.

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The party overturned majorities of 11,220 and 18,540, delivering the Government's ninth and tenth by-election defeats of the current parliament.

Gen Kitchen took the seat in Wellingborough in the early hours of Friday, a seat which had been held by ousted Tory MP Peter Bone since 2005.

She won a majority of 13,844 votes compared to Tory candidate Helen Harrison, who received 7,408, giving the Labour MP a majority of 6,436.

The party’s victory in Wellingborough makes it the largest swing of this parliament and the second largest swing since World War Two after a shift of 28.5%

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Conservative Party Chairman Richard Holden | 16/02/24

Peter Bone was ousted from the Northamptonshire seat after he was found to have bullied and sexually harassed a former member of staff in a damning report last year.

Hailing Labour’s record victories on Friday, Keir Starmer said the results showed “people want change".

He said: "These are fantastic results in Kingswood and Wellingborough that show people want change and are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party to deliver it.

"By winning in these Tory strongholds, we can confidently say that Labour is back in the service of working people and we will work tirelessly to deliver for them.

"The Tories have failed. Rishi's recession proves that. That's why we've seen so many former Conservative voters switching directly to this changed Labour Party.

"Those who gave us their trust in Kingswood and Wellingborough, and those considering doing so, can be safe in the knowledge that we will spend every day working to get Britain's future back."

Turnout was 30,145, which is around 38.1% of the eligible electorate.

Ms Kitchen, the new MP for Wellingborough, said she was “ecstatic” with the result and that it shows people are “fed up” with the current political landscape.

She said: “I hope Damien [Egan, new Labour MP for Kingswood] is as ecstatic as I am, and I'm sure the Labour leadership will be as well.

"This shows that people are fed up, they want change, they want competency, they want pragmatism and they want politicians to under-promise and over-deliver, which is what I am hoping to do.

"It shows how much hard work we put in and the real positive message we were putting out. There is a real appetite for a fresh start and change."

Speaking to an LBC reporter, Ms Kitchen said some of her first moves as MP will be “making sure there’s an urgent care centre” in Wellingborough as well as improving its roads.

Gen Kitchen overturned the Wellingborough Tory majority.
Gen Kitchen overturned the Wellingborough Tory majority. Picture: Alamy

It comes after Damien Egan took the seat in Gloucestershire which had been held by Tory MP Chris Skidmore since 2010.

He won 11,176 votes, while Tory candidate Sam Bromiley polled 8,675, giving Labour a majority of 2,501.

The turnout was 24,905, which is around 37.1% of eligible voters in the constituency.

The results have given a major boost to Labour despite the party’s recent turmoil over an anti-Semitism row that forced it to drop candidate Azhar Ali in the upcoming Rochdale by-election and backlash over the U-turn on its flagship £28 billion green pledge.

Labour's win means the Conservatives have now lost nine by-elections in the course of this parliament - one more than the eight defeats suffered by the 1992-97 Conservative administration led by John Major.

It means the Conservative government has lost more by-elections in a single parliament than any government since the 1960s.

The results will pile the pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following the news yesterday that the UK entered recession at the end of 2023.

Following Labour's victory in Kingswood, Sir Keir Starmer said: "This is a fantastic result in Kingswood that shows people are ready to put their trust in a Labour government.

"By winning in this Tory stronghold, we can confidently say that Labour is back in the service of working people and we will work tirelessly to deliver for them.

"To those who have put their trust in us, you can be safe in the knowledge that the Labour Party will deliver on your priorities. Labour will give Britain its future back."

Read more: Rishi Sunak contemplates defence budget boost amid warship concerns and foreign threats

Read more: Keir Starmer slashes Labour's £28bn green spending pledge in major U-turn

Votes are counted for the Kingswood by-election
Votes are counted for the Kingswood by-election. Picture: Alamy

In his winning speech, Mr Egan thanked campaigners and election workers, as well as his husband, agent, and residents of Kingswood.

"Your honesty, your frankness has helped keep my campaign rooted in the issues that are really impacting our community," he said.

Addressing national issues, he said: "In Kingswood, as across the country, 14 years of Conservative government have sucked the hope out of our country.

"There's a feeling that no matter how hard you work, you just can't move forward. And that with Rishi's recession, we're left again paying more and getting less.

"It doesn't have to be this way.

"And when the prime minister finally finds the courage to give the people a say, we're going to need each and every one of you again to come out and vote and make sure your voices are heard."

The Kingswood by-election was triggered by Chris Skidmore's resignation as an MP over legislation being introduced to boost North Sea oil and gas drilling.