Tories hold Old Bexley and Sidcup in by-election after death of MP James Brokenshire

3 December 2021, 05:26 | Updated: 3 December 2021, 08:17

New Old Bexley and Sidcup MP Louie French.
New Old Bexley and Sidcup MP Louie French. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The Conservatives have held on to the south-east London seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in a by-election following the death of MP James Brokenshire in October.

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The election was prompted by the death of Mr Brokenshire, who passed away aged 53 following his battle with lung cancer.

Mr Brokenshire had a majority of almost 19,000 but that was reduced to around 4,500 when Louie French won the contest on Thursday.

Turnout was significantly lower compared with the last general election, meaning the Tories' majority was significantly reduced.

Tory co-chair Oliver Dowden, speaking to LBC this morning, denied the party had a "bloody nose" after the 10 per cent swing to Labour.

“Actually, we secured 50 per cent of the vote in Bexley," he told Nick Ferrari.

"Of course mid-term, there is always going to be voter frustration. But against that backdrop, that is a good result."

In his acceptance speech, Mr French - who wore Mr Brokenshire's rosette as a mark of respect for his predecessor - said he was "incredibly proud" of the campaign his team has run.

He said it was based on local issues "that matter to the people who live here".

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Former Minister and Conservative MP James Brokenshire died at the age of 53.
Former Minister and Conservative MP James Brokenshire died at the age of 53. Picture: Alamy

"And tonight, those people send a clear message: they want an MP who will work with the Government to deliver on their priorities," he said.

"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."

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 he was the first home-grown MP for the seat.

"This is the greatest honour of my life. And I hope it inspires people to achieve their own dreams."

Mr French also paid tribute to his friend Mr Brokenshire, saying the contest had been tough but "fought with dignity".

The voter turnout was low at 34% - although by-election votes are historically lower than general election turnout.

It meant the Tories' majority has been cut from nearly 19,000 to 4,478, with a 10% swing to Labour.

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Tory deputy chairman Justin Tomlinson said: "We're absolutely thrilled. For a Government to get over 50% of the vote in a parliamentary by-election is almost unheard of, and with a majority of over 20%.

"A fantastic local candidate, positive campaign, focused on the tangible difference we're making to people's lives, having navigated the unprecedented challenges of Covid."

Mr Tomlinson also said it was "an absolute disaster" for Labour, adding: "Their deal that they've done with the Liberal Democrats to concentrate on this one and the Liberal Democrats to concentrate on Shropshire has massively backfired for the Labour Party. It's yet another disastrous parliamentary by-election for them."

Local MP Ellie Reeves helped run Labour's campaign, and reckons Tory voters were unhappy with Boris Johnson's leadership.

The party sounded an upbeat note despite their loss, pointing to a 10% swing from the Conservatives to Labour and their 30.8% share of the vote - the party's highest share in the seat for 20 years.

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Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge, said: "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."

Third-placed Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party), also hailed his 6.6% share of the vote as a significant result for his party.

Mr Tice tweeted: "Huge thanks to voters in Old Bexley & Sidcup. A massive result for @reformparty_uk, coming 3rd with almost as many votes as the Lib Dems & Greens combined. Now only 5 parties to choose from in British politics and Reform UK is the only one on the upward march."

The full results of the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election are:

Conservative hold.

Louie French (C) 11,189 (51.48%, -13.06%)

Daniel Francis (Lab) 6,711 (30.88%, +7.40%)

Richard Tice (Reform) 1,432 (6.59%)

Jonathan Rooks (Green) 830 (3.82%, +0.62%)

Simone Reynolds (LD) 647 (2.98%, -5.31%)

Elaine Cheeseman (Eng Dem) 271 (1.25%)

John Poynton (UKIP) 184 (0.85%)

Richard Hewison (Rejoin) 151 (0.69%)

David Kurten (Heritage) 116 (0.53%)

Carol Valinejad (CPA) 108 (0.50%)

Mad Mike Young (Loony) 94 (0.43%)

Conservative majority 4,478 (20.60%)

10.23% swing C to Lab

Electorate 64,827; Turnout 21,733 (33.52%, -36.28%)

2019: C maj 18,952 (41.07%) - Turnout 46,145 (69.81%)

Brokenshire (C) 29,786 (64.55%); Tingle (Lab) 10,834 (23.48%);

Reynolds (LD) 3,822 (8.28%); Browne (Green) 1,477 (3.20%); Valinejad

(CPA) 226 (0.49%)