Tories brace for by-election battering with fears of triple loss

Tories brace for by-election battering with fears of triple loss

July 20, 2023

Tories brace for by-election battering with fears they will lose all three contests happening TODAY… but could Sadiq Khan’s hated ULEZ save them in Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge seat?

Tories are bracing for a by-election battering with fears they will lose all three seats up for grabs today.

Voting is under way in Uxbridge & South Ruislip – Boris Johnson’s old constituency – as well as Selby & Ainsty and Somerton & Frome.

Although previously regarded as Conservative strongholds, Rishi Sunak admitted at a meeting of MPs last night that the contests will be ‘tough’.

He appealed for his troops to unite regardless of the results, pledging to ‘throw everything’ at winning the next general election.

Most Tories are gloomy about the prospects for holding on to the seats with national polls dire and Mr Sunak’s personal ratings plumbing new depths.

However, some are hoping that fury over Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion will offer a lifeline in Uxbridge. 

Tory candidate Steve Tuckwell leaves a polling station in Uxbridge & South Ruislip after casting his vote today 

Keir Starmer (left) is hoping to pick up two new MPs in the contest today, while Rishi Sunak (right) has warned the contests will be ‘tough’

YouGov polling this week suggested the PM’s personal ratings have sunk to the lowest since he took over in Downing Street

Labour are bullish about their chances of snatching that constituency along with Selby & Ainsty – vacated by the resignation of Mr Johnson’s ally Nigel Adams.

The Lib Dems are eying victory in the contest in Somerton & Frome, triggered by David Warburton quitting after admitting cocaine use amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Losses for the Tories in all of them would be the first time in 55 years that a government has been defeated in three by-elections on the same day.

Last night Mr Sunak told his MPs: ‘In the coming months, I am going to set out more of what I would do if I had a full term.

‘I was recently described as a full spectrum modern Conservative and you are going to see that in the programme I lay out.’

Mr Sunak pledged to show the public ‘who is really on their side’, adding: ‘And that is what will propel us to victory.’

He was conscious of the battle he will face if voters roundly reject the Tory candidates, but urged MPs to unite ahead of a general election expected next year.

‘When we come back in September we have a choice to make, all of us. Do we come together and throw everything at winning the next election or not? I’ve made my choice, I’m all in with you to win,’ Mr Sunak told the meeting.

‘I promise you we can do this but we can only do it together as one team.’

Tory backbencher Jonathan Gullis told reporters outside the meeting that the problem is ‘apathetic Conservative voters’ rather than the public’s support for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

He said Mr Sunak told them ‘what we already know, which is it’s going to be a tough battle’ in the by-elections.

Tory MPs at the meeting said he did not address suggestions that he could carry out a Cabinet reshuffle tomorrow in an attempt to reset his premiership.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey is aiming to seize Somerton & Frome in the by-election today

Mr Johnson held London’s Uxbridge constituency with a 7,000 majority when he was prime minister at the last general election in 2019.

Mr Adams secured North Yorkshire’s Selby and Ainsty with a 20,000 majority that night, a similar margin to Mr Warburton’s victory in his Somerset seat.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘Today voters across Somerton and Frome have a chance to send a clear message to the Conservatives that they have failed our country on the NHS, the cost-of-living crisis and protecting our rural communities.

‘If the Liberal Democrats succeed in overturning this massive 19,000 Conservative majority, it will show voters in Somerset are fed up with being taken for granted by Rishi Sunak and his failing government.’

Sir Keir’s spokesman tried to manage expectations on Labour’s chances, saying Uxbridge was not won even during the 1997 landslide victory and Selby would require the party’s best by-election result since the Second World War.

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