Katy Balls Katy Balls

The by-election that should most worry ministers

When the political cabinet met on Tuesday, by-elections were on the agenda. The Prime Minister is facing four of them. David Warburton, suspended from the party last year over a sex and cocaine ‘sting’, is the latest to step down. On 20 July the Tories will try to defend his constituency of Somerton and Frome, Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Nigel Adams’s Selby and Ainsty. Despite announcing she was also quitting on social media, Nadine Dorries is taking her time to trigger a vote in Mid Bedfordshire – and the whips’ office is assuming that she may hang on all the way to the next election.

Tory election strategist Isaac Levido told the ministers assembled that the by-elections required local strategies – away from the drama of Westminster – as the seats are so varied. ‘We’ll lose them all,’ predicts a gloomy government aide. But the irony is, the by-election that should most worry ministers is the one they don’t hold a stake in.

‘We need to stop calling Humza Useless and rename him Humza Useful,’ says a government aide

After the former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier was suspended from the Commons for breaking lockdown rules, a recall petition has been opened in her constituency of Rutherglen and Hamilton West. If by the end of next month 8,000 voters have signed it, a by-election will take place where Scottish Labour will try to take the seat back and wipe out the SNP majority of 5,230.

It will offer an important indicator of how strong the Scottish Labour recovery is. A new Panelbase poll predicts Labour is on course to defeat the SNP, win 26 MPs and become Scotland’s largest party. The glow of success would extend well past the party’s cheery Glaswegian leader Anas Sarwar to Keir Starmer in Westminster.

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