With a local dispute swaying voters, the result in Boris Johnson’s old seat did not accurately reflect the national mood
One out of three ain’t bad? A surprise win in Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge gave Conservatives something to cheer on Friday morning as Rishi Sunak narrowly avoided being the first prime minister since Harold Wilson to suffer three byelection defeats on the same day. But with a local dispute swaying Uxbridge voters, the contests in Selby and Somerton may provide a clearer indication of the national mood. The picture they paint is bleak: two heavy defeats for the government to different opponents at opposite ends of England.
In the week when Labour leader Keir Starmer took to the stage for the first time with his predecessor Tony Blair, Labour achieved a byelection breakthrough in North Yorkshire worthy of Blair’s mid-1990s prime. Selby and Ainsty’s 20,000-vote Conservative majority is the largest ever overturned by Labour in a byelection, and the swing to Labour was the second largest recorded. Labour comfortably outperformed its current polling with a swing which would decimate the Conservative benches if replicated in a general election. This was the performance of an opposition on its way back into government.