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Sat, 20 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Labour Secures Historic Win In Mid Bedfordshire By-Election Overturning Huge Tory Majority

Alistair Strathern is the new Labour MP for Mid Bedfordshire (Alamy)

4 min read

The Labour Party has overturned a Conservative majority of more than 24,000 in the Mid Bedfordshire by-election, delivering the constituency its first ever Labour MP in a huge blow for the Conservative government.

Labour's Alistair Strathern, a former teacher, will be Mid Bedfordshire's new Member of Parliament. Strathern is currently a cabinet member on Waltham Forest Council in east London.

Labour won 13,872 votes while the Conservatives gained 12,680. The Lib Dems took 9,420 votes in the tightly fought three-way race. 

The Labour Party enjoyed a 20.5 per cent swing and now has a majority of 1,192. 

"Nowhere is off limits for this Labour Party and tonight's result proves it," Strathern said in a victory speech. 

"This was no longer an area that felt as though it was being treated [with] respect, both nationally and locally, by our MP."

Addressing Labour supporters alongside Strathern in Mid Bedfordshire on Friday morning, Labour leader Starmer said that voters had seen the "party is changed".

"I'm glad that they've seen that our party is changed that they can put their trust and confidence in us," he said. 

"And I hope that that persuades other voters across the country who may have voted for other parties in the past that the party of the future, the party of national renewal to reject the decline of the last 30 years, is this changed Labour Party."

He hailed the Mid Beds victory as an "incredible result" and said Strathern had "made history".

Labour also won a seat in Tamworth in a surprise double by-election victory, boosting the party's hopes of a majority at the next general election. 

Starmer said that overturning two major Tory majorities showed Labour "is back in the service of working people and redrawing the political map".

The by-election was triggered when the seat's previous Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries, finally announced her resignation in August after having announced her intention to step down as MP two and a half months earlier in protest at not being offered a peerage.

In her resignation letter in the Mail on Sunday, Dorries accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of “whipping a public frenzy against her” and told him: “Your actions have left some 200 or more of my MP colleagues to face an electoral tsunami and the loss of their livelihoods, because in your impatience to become Prime Minister you put your personal ambition above the stability of the country and our economy.

“Bewildered, we look in vain for the grand political vision for the people of this great country to hold on to, that would make all this disruption and subsequent inertia worthwhile, and we find absolutely nothing.”

This by-election was a fiercely fought contest due to neither Labour or the Lib Dems backing down from the race, raising the question as to whether they were going to split the anti-Tory vote.

Mid Bedfordshire had been a solid Conservative seat since 1931, and Labour has never had an MP representing the constituency before. 

Luke Tryl, the UK Director of research organisation More in Common said it was significant that Labour had won the seats in the context of splits in the anti-Tory vote.

"It’s not just that Labour has won two of the safest seats in the country, it’s that they have overcome really significant electoral barriers to do so," he said.

"In Mid Bedfordshire, Labour won despite a split in the anti-Tory vote and in Tamworth they won a seat that voted heavily for Leave in 2016 and also trended away from Labour at an alarming rate since the party last held it in 2005.

"All of this suggests that the Tories learnt the wrong lesson from the Uxbridge by-election in July and should have instead focused on what happened in Selby."

At the next general election, the Mid Bedfordshire constituency boundaries will change slightly, with some of the constituency being absorbed into the new constituencies of North Bedfordshire and Hitchen.

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