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Tories demand tax cuts to ‘win back’ furious voters after Rishi Sunak suffers another double by-election disaster with Labour seizing Wellingborough and Kingswood – as support for Reform UK sees it surge to third place


Rishi Sunak is facing mounting Tory calls for tax cuts today after another catastrophic set of by-elections.

Labour seized the previously safe seats of Wellingborough and Kingswood in the latest pummelling for the PM overnight.  

Gen Kitchen turned a Conservative majority of more than 18,500 in Wellingborough into a Labour one of 6,436. The vote share swing of 28.5 percentage points was the second largest from Tory to Labour at a by-election since the Second World War.

In Kingswood, Damien Egan, the former mayor of Lewisham in London, secured a majority of 2,501 after overturning the 11,220 Conservative majority. 

But senior Conservatives highlighted the scale of the collapse in the party’s support – bigger than the swing to Labour – and sounded alarm at surges by Reform UK as they called for immediate action from Mr Sunak. 

The Tories have now lost more by-elections since 2019 than any other government in a single term since the 1960s. 

The Reform Party’s Rupert Lowe took 10 per cent of the vote in Kingswood, while Ben Habib landed 13 per cent in Wellingborough. It is the first time the party has polled this high in a by-election.

If all the Reform voters had backed the Tories in Kingswood it would have held onto the seat, repeating a situation seen in the by-elections last year in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire. 

And in Wellingborough the party’s total was more than 50 per cent of the Tory vote – though it would not have ben enough to hang onto the seat. The Tory vote share in the seat collapsed from 62.2 per cent in 2019 to just 24.6 per cent.

Ms Kitchen won Wellingborough by overturning a Conservative majority of more than 18,500, winning by 6,436.

Mr Egan, the former mayor of Lewisham in London , overturned a Conservative majority of 11,220 in Kingswood, securing 11,176 votes and a majority of 2,501.

Mr Egan, the former mayor of Lewisham in London , overturned a Conservative majority of 11,220 in Kingswood, securing 11,176 votes and a majority of 2,501.

Alarm bells will be ringing at CCHQ after the showing by Reform UK in Wellingborough overnight

Alarm bells will be ringing at CCHQ after the showing by Reform UK in Wellingborough overnight

The Tory collapse was repeated in Kingswood, where Labour also emerged triumphant

The Tory collapse was repeated in Kingswood, where Labour also emerged triumphant

If all the Reform voters had backed the Tories in Kingswood it would have held onto the seat. And in Wellingborough the party's total was more than 50 per cent of the Tory vote - though it would not have ben enough to hang onto the seat.

If all the Reform voters had backed the Tories in Kingswood it would have held onto the seat. And in Wellingborough the party’s total was more than 50 per cent of the Tory vote – though it would not have ben enough to hang onto the seat.

Mr Egan is congratulated by his husband after emerging victorious last night

Mr Egan is congratulated by his husband after emerging victorious last night

Wellingborough in Northamptonshire is the former seat of Peter Bone, who was forced out by a recall petition after a Parliamentary probe ruled he bullied and sexually mistreated a former aide. Mr Bone's partner, Helen Harrison, was the Tory candidate.

Wellingborough in Northamptonshire is the former seat of Peter Bone, who was forced out by a recall petition after a Parliamentary probe ruled he bullied and sexually mistreated a former aide. Mr Bone’s partner, Helen Harrison, was the Tory candidate.

Immediately after the result Ms Harrison insisted she would be standing again at the general election

Immediately after the result Ms Harrison insisted she would be standing again at the general election

Keir Starmer said the results of Thursday’s by-elections show the public ‘want change’.

The Labour leader said: ‘These are fantastic results in Kingswood and Wellingborough that show people want change and are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party to deliver it.

‘By winning in these Tory strongholds, we can confidently say that Labour is back in the service of working people and we will work tirelessly to deliver for them.

Wellingborough result 

Gen Kitchen (Lab) 13,844

Helen Harrison (Con) 7,408

Ben Habib (Reform) 3,919

Ana Savage Gunn (Lib Dem) 1,422

Marion Turner-Hawes (ND) 1,115 

Will Morris (Green) 1,020

Kev Watts (Ind) 533

Alex Merola (Britain 1st) 477

Nick The Flying Brick (Loony) 217

Andre Pyne-Bailey (Ind) 172

Ankit Love Jay Mala (ND) 18

‘The Tories have failed. Rishi’s recession proves that. That’s why we’ve seen so many former Conservative voters switching directly to this changed Labour Party.

‘Those who gave us their trust in Kingswood and Wellingborough, and those considering doing so, can be safe in the knowledge that we will spend every day working to get Britain’s future back.’

Ms Kitchen said she was ‘ecstatic’ at the result, adding that the double by-election win for Labour shows that people are ‘fed up’ and want change.

She said: ‘I hope Damien is as ecstatic as I am, and I’m sure the Labour leadership will be as well.

‘This shows that people are fed up, they want change, they want competency, they want pragmatism and they want politicians to under-promise and over-deliver, which is what I am hoping to do.

‘It shows how much hard work we put in and the real positive message we were putting out. There is a real appetite for a fresh start and change.’

Labour’s wins mean the Conservatives have now lost 10 by-elections in the course of this parliament – two more than the eight defeats suffered by the 1992-97 Conservative administration led by John Major. 

Both seats were won by the Tories with healthy five-digit majorities in 2019. But turnout in both votes was below 40 per cent, with senior figures expecting disaffected Conservatives to stay away from the ballot boxes. 

Speaking from the Kingswood election count, former minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Conservative Party needed to ‘learn from the result’.

He said: ‘I think we should learn from this result and look at what happened with the Reform Party vote. Conservative Party votes are most likely to come from people who stay at home or who voted Reform.

Kingswood result 

Damien Egan (Lab) 11,176 

Sam Bromiley (Con) 8,675 

Rupert Lowe (Reform) 2,578 

Lorraine Francis (Green) 1,450 

Andrew Brown (Lib Dem) 861

Nicholas Wood (UKIP) 129

‘How do we win them back to the Tory family? People who share many views and values with us. By delivering things they believe in and that means lower taxation, taking more of the advantages of Brexit, with more of the removal of EU retained law, it means doing less on the green issue that is making people cold and poor, and helping revitalise our economy.

‘I think those issues will have a great appeal.’

Wellingborough in Northamptonshire is the former seat of Peter Bone, who was forced out by a recall petition after a Parliamentary probe ruled he bullied and sexually mistreated a former aide. 

To make things worse, Mr Bone’s partner, Helen Harrison, was the controversial choice for Wellingborough candidate for the party.

Immediately after the result she insisted she would be standing again at the general election. 

Party sources said Tory voters appeared to have stayed at home in large numbers, denying there had been a big switch to Labour. 

It comes against a backdrop of confirmation yesterday that the UK has fallen into recession, just weeks before the next Budget, and months before the whole country is due to go to the polls. 

However, the result will also be watched closely by Labour, which has also had a torrid week of negative headlines over green policy and Gaza, to see if they have affected the party’s popularity.

Meanwhile few MPs have campaigned for Sam Bromiley in Kingswood, a seat in the Bristol suburbs that will disappear later this year at the general election. Previous MP Chris Skidmore quit in protest in Kingswood at the government backing off Net Zero plans. 

There were 24,905 votes cast in Kingswood, a turnout of 37.11 per cent. In Wellingborough turnout was 38 per cent.

The Tories do not expect to win the Kingswood and Wellingborough (pictured) contests despite them taking place in what should be very safe seats.

The Tories do not expect to win the Kingswood and Wellingborough (pictured) contests despite them taking place in what should be very safe seats.

A Tory defeat in either constituency in the early hours of the morning would mean the Government has clocked up more by-election losses in a single parliament than any administration since the 1960s.

A Tory defeat in either constituency in the early hours of the morning would mean the Government has clocked up more by-election losses in a single parliament than any administration since the 1960s.

The votes were triggered by the recall of Peter Bone (pictured, with his partner, the Tory Wellingborough candidate Helen Harrison)  in Wellingborough over bullying allegations, and Chris Skidmore (below) quitting in protest in Kingswood at the government backing off Net Zero plans.

The votes were triggered by the recall of Peter Bone (pictured, with his partner, the Tory Wellingborough candidate Helen Harrison)  in Wellingborough over bullying allegations, and Chris Skidmore (below) quitting in protest in Kingswood at the government backing off Net Zero plans.

Both seats were won with healthy five-digit majorities in 2019. But senior figures expect a low turnout as disaffected Conservatives stay away from the ballot boxes.

Both seats were won with healthy five-digit majorities in 2019. But senior figures expect a low turnout as disaffected Conservatives stay away from the ballot boxes.

Ballot boxes arrive as polls close and counting begins for the Wellingborough by-election at the Kettering Leisure Village

Ballot boxes arrive as polls close and counting begins for the Wellingborough by-election at the Kettering Leisure Village

Ballots are counted in the Kingswood by-election. Kingswood will only exist as a constituency until the next election when it will disappear due to boundary changes

Ballots are counted in the Kingswood by-election. Kingswood will only exist as a constituency until the next election when it will disappear due to boundary changes

Keir Starmer has been derided for his weak response to comments by his candidate in the upcoming Rochdale by-election. 

Azhar Ali apologised after he was recorded during a meeting of Lancashire Labour members suggesting that Israel had taken Hamas‘ October 7 attack as a pretext to invade Gaza.

The party leadership initially stood by him, but withdrew its backing after allegations emerged that he had also blamed ‘people in the media from certain Jewish quarters’ for the suspension of Labour MP Andy McDonald.

A second parliamentary candidate, Graham Jones, was suspended on Tuesday after audio obtained by website Guido Fawkes appeared to show the former Labour MP using abusive language at the same meeting Mr Ali attended.

Both votes are seen as two-horse races between Labour and the Conservatives.

Kingswood’s vote was triggered by Mr Skidmore’s resignation as an MP in protest at Government legislation to boost North Sea oil and gas drilling.

He won the South Gloucestershire constituency for the Tories at the past four general elections, before which Labour held it at every general election since 1992.

The Opposition needs a much smaller swing to overturn the Conservative majority of 23 per cent than the ones it recently secured in Tamworth, Selby and Ainsty and Mid Bedfordshire.

The by-election in Wellingborough came after former Tory MP Mr Bone received a six-week suspension from the Commons when an inquiry found he had subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual misconduct.

He won the Northamptonshire constituency at every general election from 2005 to 2019, with Labour coming second in four of the five contests and Ukip in 2015. His majority in 2019 was 36 per cent.

The swing needed by Labour to win the seat is at 17.9 percentage points – in other words, the equivalent of a net change of 18 in every 100 people who voted Tory in 2019 switching sides.

A Savanta poll conducted over the weekend showed Labour 12 points ahead, but the advantage had dropped dramatically

A Savanta poll conducted over the weekend showed Labour 12 points ahead, but the advantage had dropped dramatically

The outcomes in Kingswood and Wellingborough will be closely watched for evidence of any hit to Sir Keir's (pictured this morning) support from the party's meltdown over the Middle East

The outcomes in Kingswood and Wellingborough will be closely watched for evidence of any hit to Sir Keir’s (pictured this morning) support from the party’s meltdown over the Middle East

This is still a smaller swing than the ones managed by Labour in 2023 at the by-elections in Tamworth, Selby & Ainsty and Mid Bedfordshire.

Before the polls closed one senior Tory who has been on doorsteps in the seats over the past week told MailOnline: ‘Kingswood and Wellingborough are going to be lost. But the narrative is that Keir is expected to win them, and the turnout is going to be very low again. 

‘He is not convincing people, it’s the Tories not showing up.’ 

According to the latest voting intention poll from Savanta, the lead enjoyed by Labour over the Conservatives has dropped by seven points after a turbulent couple of weeks for the party.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party has held a sustained double-digit advantage over the Tories in national opinion polls, but the past week has been overshadowed by criticism of remarks made by Rochdale candidate

Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm on Thursday, with the results expected to be declared in both constituencies some time after 4am.

The Rochdale by-election will take place separately on February 29.

Due to new laws brought in by the Government, voters will need to bring photo ID – such as a passport or driving licence – in order to cast their ballots.



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