Keir Starmer seizes two Tory safe seats from Rishi Sunak in crushing double defeat for PM


Keir Starmer has seized two previously safe Conservative seats from Rishi Sunak, in what has been described as a "political earthquake"

Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 20/10/2023

- 05:23

Updated: 20/10/2023

- 10:13

Follow below for the latest updates, analysis and breaking news...

Keir Starmer has secured a momentous victory for the Labour Party, seizing two previously safe Conservative seats from Rishi Sunak overnight.

Labour won by-elections in Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth last night, seats which had majorities of 24,500 and 19,000 respectively.

Starmer said the results show that Labour is "redrawing the political map”, adding: “Winning in these Tory strongholds shows that people overwhelmingly want change, and they’re ready to put their faith into our changed Labour Party to deliver it.”

Alistair Strathern, the new MP for Mid Bedfordshire, took the seat from the Tories with 13,872 votes, representing a swing of 20.52 per cent.

WATCH: Conservative Chairman Greg Hands reacts to the double by-election loss

He has a majority of just 1,000 votes following a bitter three-way battle with the Liberal Democrats, who held a fierce campaign in the region.

The seat has been held by the Conservatives since 1931, today flipping to Labour for the first time in history.

Sarah Edwards took Tamworth from the Conservatives with 11,719 votes. This represents a 23.89 per cent swing to the Labour Party - the second-highest by-election swing to Labour since 1945.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice said the results are "extremely bad news" for the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Starmer said: “Winning in these Tory strongholds shows that people overwhelmingly want change and they’re ready to put their faith in our changed Labour Party to deliver it.

“Voters across Mid Bedfordshire, Tamworth and Britain want a Labour government determined to deliver for working people, with a proper plan to rebuild our country.

“To those who have given us their trust, and those considering doing so, Labour will spend every day acting in your interests and focused on your priorities. Labour will give Britain its future back.”

Speaking to GB News after the result was announced, Strathern said: "I am just so humbled and grateful because this has been such a big campaign for me. I grew up around here and this area means so much to me.

Alistair Strathern and Megan Corton-Scott

Alistair Strathern, the new MP for Mid Bedfordshire, took the seat from the Tories with 13,872 votes, representing a swing of 20.52 per cent


"To see people across these towns and villages placing their faith in me today has just been so exhilarating and I'm going to be working incredibly hard from tomorrow to show them they made the right choice."

Shadow Science Secretary Peter Kyle, who has been leading the campaign in Mid Bedfordshire, said the historic win shows that "nowhere is off limits" for the Labour Party.

He told GB News: "I am completely overwhelmed with the size of what's just happened. This is a political earthquake.

"This is the biggest by-election shock, not just in recent history, but in all of our political history.

"It was only possible because Keir Starmer has changed the Labour Party.

"He has reoriented our policies, our platform of government. he has put forward to the country a ten-year programme of renewal based on a mission-led government in waiting and the public has responded - so nowhere is off-limits anymore."

Kyle added: "We took nothing for granted. We knew it was possible but we never ever took this for granted.

"We worked for every single vote. I think our candidate, right the way through to Keir Starmer, earned every vote the hard way."

Conservative Party Chairman Greg Hands told GB News the party needs to "reflect" on the result - but noted that both by-elections were "low turnout".

When asked if Labour's by-election victory will impact when the Prime Minister calls a General Election, he said: "I don't think the opposition parties did do particularly well actually.

"The Liberal Democrats, for example, did not put up a good show. Lost their deposit in Tamworth and Labour hardly improved their vote at all.

"In fact, it went down in Mid Bedfordshire slightly. But I don't think that will have an impact on the general election.

"Clearly, we need to recognise that a large number of our Conservative voters yesterday did not come out in Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth, despite having excellent candidates.

"So we need to work harder. We need to make sure that people get the Government message that we are delivering against the five priorities, making progress and moving forward with exciting new policies as well."

A former minister told GB News that the defeats are a result of Sunak's failure to "connect with the electorate".

Sarah Edwards

Speaking in Tamworth, Edwards used her election speech to demand the Prime Minister call a General Election


When asked who is to blame, he said: "We are led by a nice, good man, who sadly is struggling to connect with the electorate.

"We have also been unfortunate in being in power at the time of the pandemic and the consequent economic damage.

"Jeremy Hunt has the power to turn things round, but he needs to be bold and go for growth."

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told GB News blamed "open tribal party politics" for the defeat, saying it deterred "moderate Conservatives and floating voters".

Hecalled for "unity" behind a "moderate message" to retain seats at a General Election.

He said: "Open tribal party politics (so vividly illustrated at Conference) continues to deter moderate Conservatives and floating voters from supporting us.

"Holding the centre-right ground in British politics is fundamental for any Tory party to secure electoral success.If we appeal solely to our party base and the right - we will lose right to govern.

"After the chaos of the last few years, Sunak is pursuing a more moderate message - the more we are united-the more seats we retain at the next election."

Another MP in a Red Wall constituency said the Government needs to clamp down on migration and introduce tax cuts to really benefit working people.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns called for the Government to introduce "far-reaching major changes now" in order to pull back support before a general election.

Writing on X, she said: "Voter apathy is evident yet again in both the by-elections, low turnout - 20,000 failed to turnout in Tamworth, 24,000 failed to turnout in Mid Beds since the last election.

"We need to make far-reaching major changes now to instil confidence in the Conservative voters."

Speaking in Tamworth, Edwards used her election speech to demand the Prime Minister call a General Election.

She said the people of Tamworth had "voted for Labour's positive vision" saying it sends a message to Sunak and the Government that it is "time for change".

Reacting to the results, Curtice said: "The truth is two by-elections results, both of them extremely bad news for the Conservatives.

"Now in whatever criteria you use, they're up there very clearly in the top 10 of worst Conservative performances against the Labour Party.

"And we've now had three by-elections with swings of 20 per cent of more to the Labour Party. The last time we had that was the 1992-1997 Parliament.

"It is 12 months to go, this isn't destiny, but it is a pointer and it is a pointer that, unless the Conservatives can fairly dramatically and fairly radically turn things around, then they are in truth staring defeat in the face in 12 months' time."

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