Katy Balls Katy Balls

Sunak avoids triple by-election defeat after Tories hold Uxbridge

Conservative Party candidate, Steve Tuckwell speaks after winning the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election (Credit: Getty images)

Rishi Sunak has narrowly avoided three by-election losses. Overnight, the Conservatives lost Somerton and Frome to the Liberal Democrats, overturning a majority of 19,213 to lead by 11,008 votes, and Selby and Ainsty to Labour, with Keir Starmer’s party overturning its largest ever majority at a by-election in post-war history. However, the Tories managed to narrowly cling on in Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, with a reduced majority of just 495 votes. It means today’s results are a mixed bag for Starmer and Sunak.

As is often the case with by-elections, it is Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey who has the most to be happy about – chalking up another big by-election win following strong results in the local elections. The Liberal Democrats see their victory in Somerton as evidence that the party could do well in a general election, not just in the so-called blue wall – southern seats, including the commuter belt – but also in the south west, a former stronghold prior to the 2015 election. Ahead of the votes it was this seat where the Tories were the most resigned to defeat after David Warburton quit over harassment and drug allegations. As a government adviser put it to me ahead of polling day: 'One was sparked by a Tory MP taking cocaine so we probably deserve it.'

Selby was originally the seat the Tories were the most hopeful about – and it's the result that will be the most painful for the party. By overturning a majority of 20,137, Starmer can say he has made history and point to a result that shows Labour is performing well above the national 12-point swing the party needs for an overall majority at the next general election.

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