Mon, 11 December 2023

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Press releases

What You Need To Know About Triple By-Election


6 min read

The polls have opened for three by-elections in constituencies in England on Thursday, with the Conservatives at risk of losing all three seats they have previously held to the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

The constituencies being contested are Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome. The seats were left vacant after former prime minister Boris Johnson, his staunch ally Nigel Adams and David Warburton - who is now an independent after having the whip removed – all resigned.

The results of all three constituencies are expected between 3am-5am on Friday morning, after the polls opened at 7am on Thursday and close at 10pm.

A combination of local and national factors will influence the result of all three-by elections. The Conservatives have lost the last two by-elections which took place last summer, after Labour won Wakefield while the Liberal Democrats gained Tiverton and Honiton.

With the Conservative Party 18 points behind in the polls, according to YouGov, many Tory MPs are braced for a difficult night.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the by-elections:

What is a by-election?

A by-election happens when a sitting MP leaves Parliament or dies. If this happens during a parliamentary term then a by-election is held. 

Voter turnout is usually lower than at a general election and voting patterns tend to be different, according to the Institute for Government, a think tank. 

What time will the votes be announced?

The result of Somerton and Frome is expected to be announced between 4am and 4.30am on Friday morning. 

Winners of Selby and Ainsty, and Uxbridge and South Ruislip, are expected to be announced between 3am and 4am.

What happened at the last general election?

Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome all returned Conservative MPs with varying majorities at the last General Election in 2019. 

Johnson held Uxbridge and South Ruislip by a majority of 7,210 votes. The former prime minister won 25,351 votes and 52.6 per cent of the vote share, while Labour’s Ali Milani came second after he picked up 18,141 votes and 37.6 per cent of the ballots cast. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats came a distant third with 3,026 votes and 6.3 per cent of votes cast.

In Selby and Ainsty, which was held by Adams, a Johnson loyalist, the Conservative Party won a majority of 20,137. The Tory Party won 33,995 votes and secured 60.3% of the vote share. Labour came second with 13,858 votes and 24.6 per cent of the vote share while the Liberal Democrats picked up 4,842 votes and 8.6 per cent of the vote share.

Somerton and Frome was another Tory stronghold at the last election, after the party won a majority of 19,213. Warburton, who was the Conservative candidate at the time, but lost the whip last year, won 36,230 and 55.8 per cent. The Liberal Democrats’ candidate Adam Boyden won 17,017 votes and gained 26.2 per cent of the vote share. Meanwhile Labour came third with 8,354 votes and 12.9 per cent vote share.

Why are the by-elections happening?

The three by-elections were triggered after Johnson, Adams and Warburton resigned from their seats. However, they stepped down for different reasons. 

Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, resigned with immediate effect after he was given the Privileges Committee report, which stated he had lied the Parliament over the Partygate scandal. The investigation recommended a 90-day suspension as well as revoking his lifetime parliamentary pass.

Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty, was one of Johnson's most loyal supporters and resigned after the former prime minister said he was leaving Parliament. 

Warburton, MP for Somerton and Frome, lost the Conservative Party whip after claims of sexual harassment were made and a picture of him taking cocaine by the Sunday Times emerged. He admitted to taking cocaine but has denied allegations of sexual harassment. 

Who are the candidates from the main three parties and what do they stand for?

Uxbridge and South Ruislip

The Labour Party’s candidate is Danny Beales, who has been a councillor for the London Borough of Camden for nine years. He said his experience of growing up in poverty drove him towards joining the Labour Party. Beales is on the pro-housebuilding wing of the Labour Party and has claimed he has been the “cabinet member responsible for Camden’s ambitious council house building programme”. The Labour candidate has primarily campaigned on the economy and NHS waiting lists. 

The Conservative Party’s candidate is Steve Tuckwell, who was elected as Ward Councillor for South Ruislip in May 2018. He was a former postman and has alway lived in South Ruislip. Tuckwell has tried to focus his campaign on his opposition towards the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which under the proposals would affect the constituency.

The Liberal Democrats’ representative is Blaise Baquiche, who was once an adviser for the Tories. 

Selby and Ainsty

Labour’s 25-year-old candidate Keir Mather, from Hull, worked for the CBI as a public affairs adviser. If elected, he will be the youngest MP in the House of Commons. 

Mather has promised a “fresh start” for the constituency, and has plastered his five pledges for the area – mirroring Sunak's own faltering promises for the nation – across the front of the high street shop Labour is using as a campaign base. These include: supporting people hit by the cost-of-living crisis, tackling antisocial behaviour and rural crime, improving the local NHS, bolstering flood defence and sewage issues, and improving public transport.

The Tories’ Claire Holmes is also contesting the North Yorkshire seat. Holmes is a lawyer and is a councillor for East Riding of Yorkshire. She was picked to stand after the previous Conservative candidate Michael Naughton stepped back from the process after a family emergency. Holmes has insisted she is focused “on the local picture” and is “only concerned with being a strong voice for the people in this community” ahead of the vote. 

Liberal Democrat candidate Matt Walker who is a local councillor and works in the NHS as a manager. He has concentrated his campaign on the health service and economy. 

Somerton and Frome

The Liberal Democrats’ candidate, who is widely expected to win the seat tonight, is Sarah Dyke who sits on Somerset Council. Dyke has pitched herself as the local candidate who understands the issues of the constituency, after she explained she was from a farming family who have lived in the area for generations.

Faye Purbick is representing the Conservatives in Somerton and Frome. Purbick sits on Yeovil Town Council and Somerset county council and runs her own consulting business. She told PoliticsHome she has been talking to the education minister about funding for Victorian schools in Somerset, has been in discussion with environment secretary Therese Coffey about taxes on cider, and spoken with the flooding minister about flash flooding protections.

Labour said their candidate would be Neil Guild, who fought Taunton Deane for the party at the last election, which the Conservatives won. He used to be part of the army and has served in Iraq as a soldier.

Its priorities for the area would be improving NHS services. He told PoliticsHome. “That's a real challenge across Somerset, people are struggling to get GP appointments."

However, the candidate previously said it looked like a “two horse race” between the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Tom Scotson - ERG Alliance Claims New Rwanda Bill Should Be "Pulled"


Political parties