Portrait of the Week: Tory by-election misery, ‘jihad’ chants and emergency aid

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, on his return from Israel (where he spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister) and to Saudi Arabia (where he spoke with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince), told the House of Commons: ‘Hamas is not only a threat to Israel, but to many others across the region. All the leaders I met agreed that this is a watershed moment. It’s time to set the region on a better path.’ Twelve Britons had died in the Hamas attack, and five were missing. Of the blast at Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital on 17 October, which killed numbers of people into the hundreds, he said it was likely to

Where have the world’s highest temperatures been recorded?

Swing when you’re winning What are the biggest UK by-election swings? — The 1983 Bermondsey by-election saw a 11,756 Labour majority turned into a 9,319 majority for the Liberal party – a result widely attributed to the Labour candidate, Peter Tatchell, coming out as gay during the campaign. The Labour party under Michael Foot was also extremely unpopular – and had its then biggest defeat in a general election four months later. — The Clacton by-election of 2014 saw a 12,068 Conservative majority overturned into a Ukip majority of 12,404, with the Conservative share of the vote falling from 53% to 25%. However, it was unusual in that the Ukip

The by-elections are a disaster for Boris

Boris Johnson is suffering a further blow to his leadership this morning after the Conservatives lost two by-elections overnight. Labour took Wakefield from the Tories by 4,925 votes – a swing of 12.7 per cent. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats managed to overturn a Tory majority of 24,239 in Tiverton and Honiton – beating the Conservatives by 6,144 votes, with a swing of nearly 30 per cent. Tory MPs with seats where the Lib Dems are the second largest party will be particularly nervous The opposition leaders have been quick to herald their successes. Labour’s Keir Starmer has said the result is ‘a clear judgement’ on the Tory government while Liberal

The joy of Boris’s bungled by-election

By any reasonable standard the result in the North Shropshire by-election must be reckoned the funniest in years. Perhaps even decades. All governments need checking from time to time and desserts are always served justly. So this is a welcome result and not just because it is, viewed objectively, hilarious. Nevertheless, it is quite an achievement to lose a seat held by the Conservatives, in one shape of another, for 120 years. To do so just two years after winning more than 60 per cent of the vote and a majority of almost 23,000 votes is quite something. To do so to the Liberal Democrats, who took just ten per

James Forsyth

If the Tories can lose in Shropshire, they can lose anywhere

The Tory defeat in North Shropshire is a far worse result for the party and Boris Johnson than their loss in Chesham and Amersham. Chesham and Amersham could be put down to local anger about HS2 and disquiet over planning reform. It was also a seat ripe for tactical voting given it had voted Remain and the Lib Dems were a clear second. North Shropshire, by contrast, is a heavily voting Leave seat where the Liberal Democrats were in third place. There was also no single policy driving voters away from the Tories in the way that planning reform did in Chesham and Amersham. If the Tories can lose this

Nick Tyrone

It’s time to take the Lib Dems seriously again

As far as seismic by-election results go, North Shropshire is one for the ages. The Tories had held onto the seat for 200 years before they lost to the Liberal Democrats last night. And their majority at the last general election was over 22,000. The Lib Dems managed to increase their share of the vote from 10 to 47 per cent, leapfrogging Labour in the process. But is North Shropshire the beginning of a Lib Dems resurgence? And, more importantly, how worried should the Conservative party be about the party’s rise? For starters, this is an even worse result for the Tories than their Chesham and Amersham by-election loss to

Katy Balls

Tory defeat in North Shropshire as Lib Dems take former safe seat

Ministers are waking up this morning to a big Tory upset in North Shropshire. In the by-election sparked by the Owen Paterson sleaze row, the Liberal Democrats have won the seat from the Conservatives overturning a majority of 22,949. In what has long been regarded as a safe seat for the Tories (they have come out on top in the area for almost 200 years), the Liberal Democrats won 17,957 votes with the Conservatives managing just 12,032 votes. This gives the Lib Dems a majority of 5,925. Labour came third with 3,686 votes. This result clearly will be tied to Boris Johnson’s leadership and the difficult time the Prime Minister

Tories hold Old Bexley and Sidcup – with reduced majority

Boris Johnson can breathe a sign of relief this morning after the Conservatives held Old Bexley and Sidcup. In a by-election triggered by the death of the former MP and cabinet minister James Brokenshire, Tory candidate Louie French won over 50 per cent of the vote, with Labour coming in second. However, despite this victory, the Tory majority has been reduced from 19,000 to 4,478. Even taking into account the reduced turn out, the Tory vote share has fallen Both the Tories and Labour are claiming the result as a success this morning – with members of the shadow cabinet pointing to the swing towards Labour as proof they are back in business. Meanwhile,

Could there be a Tory upset in North Shropshire?

As the government turns its attention to the new Covid variant, the ramifications of the Owen Paterson sleaze row are not quite done yet. After a difficult few weeks for the Prime Minister and his team in 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson’s approval ratings have fallen both with the general public and Tory members. The latest ConservativeHome poll puts Johnson in negative ratings for the second time since the last election among the Tory grassroots — on -17.2. In a way, it’s hardly surprising Johnson’s standing has fallen given the combination of problems facing the government — from tax rises to small boats and the Paterson row. The question is,

Sunday shows round-up: Face masks to become ‘personal choice’ after 19 July, says Robert Jenrick

Robert Jenrick – We will have to ‘learn to live with the virus’ The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was the government’s chief spokesman today as England edges ever closer towards the planned relaxation of Covid restrictions on 19 July. Jenrick continued to make positive noises about this date, telling Trevor Phillips that data being examined by the Prime Minister was looking promising – and suggesting that another postponement of ‘Freedom Day’ was highly unlikely. However, Jenrick’s cautious comments did not rule out the return of restrictions in the winter, should cases continue to rise: RJ: It does seem as if we can now move forward… to a much more permissive

Why I was so wrong about the Lib Dems

Right, I got that one spectacularly wrong. On Monday, I made a prediction that the Lib Dems were going to get thumped by the Tories in the Chesham and Amersham by-election. In fact, the Lib Dems pulled off a stunning victory, overturning a 16,000 majority in a seat that has always voted Conservative. But while the result surprised me, even as a lifelong Lib Dem, I won’t be celebrating.  This week, for the first time in my political life, I made a faulty prediction of the Lib Dems’ electoral chances because I wanted them to lose. This clouded my judgement as much, if not more, than my previous desire for them to win.

Could the Tories lose the South?

The coming Batley and Spen by-election — triggered by the incumbent MP’s election as the first mayor of West Yorkshire — is currently attracting a lot of attention. It is a northern constituency that Labour won at the last election with less than 50 per cent of the vote and that voted to Leave, which has led people to wonder if the Tories can repeat their by-election success there. (It is, though, worth noting that the 2019 Labour share of the vote in Batley and Spen was 43 per cent compared to 38 per cent in Hartlepool).  But there is a group of Tory MPs who’ll be watching the Chesham and Amersham by-election even more

Why the Hartlepool election result doesn’t really matter

Ah, Hartlepool. The by-election there brings back memories: I am old enough to have reported on the last one, back in 2004, when Peter Mandelson went off to Brussels and left behind what was then a fairly safe Labour seat. My slightly faded memory of that 2004 vote informs my view of what is apparently the most important question in British politics today: who will win the latest Hartlepool by-election? And my view is this: it doesn’t really matter. To explain what I mean by that, let’s go back to that 2004 by-election, where a bright young local lad called Iain Wright (he’s now 48 and retired from politics) saw

Hartlepool and the theft of the Labour party

When the unthinkable happened in 1882 and England lost a test match on home soil to Australia there followed a mock obituary in the Sporting Times. ‘In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket, which died at the Oval on 29 August 1882, deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances,’ it read, adding that: ‘The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.’ It will be tempting to compose something similar on behalf of the Labour party should it be defeated by the Conservatives in the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election later this week. The most appropriate destination for the ashes would surely be the chichi London neighbourhood

The Northern Independence Party’s Hartlepool woes

Oh dear, it all seemed to be going so well for the ‘Northern Independence Party’, a Corbynite breakaway outfit standing in the Hartlepool by-election. Despite appearing to think that Norwich is a northern city, and the pretty embarrassing use of a whippet on its logo, the party had managed to field a former Labour MP in Hartlepool and was receiving some favourable coverage in the left-wing and national media. Unfortunately though there seems to be trouble at t’mill. Last night, the party announced that because it had failed to file the correct forms with the Electoral Commission on time, it would not be on the ballot paper in Hartlepool. Instead,