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Labour Wins Back “Red Wall” Wakefield Seat From Tories In Comfortable By-Election Victory

3 min read

Labour has regained the West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield — which was won by the Tories in 2019 for the first time since 1932 — in a major by-election victory for the party.

The party’s candidate Simon Lightwood was announced the winner in the early hours of Friday, beating the Conservative candidate Nadeem Ahmed by 4,925 votes.

Labour received 13,166 votes, a 12.7 per cent swing in vote share, while the Conservatives came in second with 8,241 votes.

In a double blow to the party, the Conservatives also lost the Devon seat of Tiverton and Honiton, where the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000-strong majority.

The Liberal Democrat candidate received so few votes in Wakefield that they lost their deposit after the party did not campaign in the seat, clear evidence of a Liberal Democrat-Labour pact not to split the non-Tory vote. Similarly, Labour lost their deposit in Tiverton and Honiton where the Lib Dems won.

The Wakefield by-election was triggered after MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned following his conviction for sexually assaulting a boy in 2008.

Following his win, Lightwood said voters in Wakefield had signalled to Boris Johnson that "your contempt for this country is no longer tolerated". 

He said today's result "turned the page on Tory neglect". 

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the result showed "the country has lost confidence in the Tories".

He added: "This result is a clear judgment on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas."

The selection of Lightwood — an NHS worker who currently lives outside the constituency — to contest the seat attracted controversy when it was announced earlier this year.

Local activists had accused Labour of breaching its own rules by limiting the number of local people allowed to participate in the longlisting and shortlisting for the selection process.

Several members of the local party staged a walkout from the selection meeting, where Lightwood was ultimately chosen over rival candidate Kate Dearden.

Wakefield had previously been a Labour seat for 87 years before the party’s MP Mary Creagh was ousted by Imran Ahmad Khan, who took the seat with a 3,358-vote majority in 2019.

It was considered one of the 45 so-called “Red Wall” seats, which had historically been held by Labour but won by the Conservatives in the 2019 general election.

Khan had the Tory whip withdrawn in June 2021 after allegations of sexual assault emerged, and was later expelled from the party after he was convicted of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.

Polling in the lead up to the by-election, conducted by JL Partners, had suggested that Labour had a 20-point lead over the Tories in Wakefield.

Another poll by Survation suggested Keir Starmer’s party could win 56 per cent of the vote, with the Tories set for just 33 per cent.

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