Conservatives Hold Boris Johnson's Former Uxbridge Seat In By-Election
Steve Tuckwell at the Uxbridge and Ruislip by-election count (Alamy)
The Conservatives have held onto Boris Johnson's former seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip with a wafer-thin majority in a by-election characterised by the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) debate.
Conservative Steve Tuckwell, a former councillor, beat Labour Danny Beales in a close victory that will bolster Tory hopes ahead of the next general election.
The Tories won the seat with 13,965 votes, while Labour picked up 13,470 a majority of 495, slashed from 7,210 at the last general election. While this means a 6.7 swing from the Tories to Labour, it was still enough for the Conservatives to hold the seat. The Liberal Democrats gained 526 votes.
"This message from the Uxbridge and South Ruislip residents is clear," Tuckwell said following the result.
"Sadiq Khan has lost Labour this election, and we know that it was his damaging and costly ULEZ policy which lost them this election."
Labour had been expected to be able to win the west London seat for the first time in its history, with polling published in the run-up to Thursday's vote putting Keir Starmer's party ahead. However, the Conservatives have managed to keep hold of it, giving Sunak a boost in his bid to rebuild his party's popularity ahead of the next general election.
Labour's shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds admitted ULEZ had made the contest difficult for the party to win.
“You’ve got a situation where things are very tough for people right now – the mortgages they’re paying, the energy bills that they have got," he told the BBC.
"And of course then when they are faced with a potential additional charge, that is going to be a difficult thing.”
Uxbridge and South Ruislip had elected Tory MPs in every election since its creation in 2010.
The former constituency that it essentially replaced, known as Uxbridge, elected nobody but Conservatives for the last 40 years of its existence.
Retaining the the seat, which had been held by Boris Johnson at the last three elections, is symbolic for the Tories who have been trying to exorcise the party of scandal associated with Johnson since he left Downing Street last year. The ex-PM resigned as an MP earlier this year after being found to have lied to parliament about his knowledge of parties held in Downing Street during lockdown.
With Labour heading into Thursday's by-election with large, double-digit leads over the Conservatives in the polls, Uxbridge and South Ruislip had seemed like a relatively straightforward victory for the party, with the Tory majority being a relatively modest 7,210.
In Selby & Ainsty, which is the second of the three by-elections that took place on Thursday, Labour was able to overturn a much bigger Conservative majority of over 20,000.
However, local opposition to mayor Sadiq Khan's plan to extend pollution-tackling driving charges to outer areas of the capital made the Uxbridge campaign tricky for Labour, with the Tories framing a vote for Tuckwell as a vote against the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
There is significant local opposition to mayor Sadiq Khan expanding the pollution-tackling, daily driving charge to outer areas of London, and the Tory campaign framed a vote for Tuckwell as a vote against Khan's plans.
The result may trigger Labour nervousness about whether Starmer is really on course to winning a majority at the next general election, which is expected to take place at some point in 2024.
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