Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer Face Double Electoral Test as Tories Defend Seats


Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are set to face a double electoral test today as voters in two previously safe Tory seats head to the polls. The by-elections in Kingswood and Wellingborough will determine who will replace former Tory MPs Chris Skidmore and Peter Bone. Losing both seats would make the current government the administration with the most by-election losses in a single Parliament since the 1960s.

Challenging Circumstances and Potential Defeats

Despite Labour needing to flip majorities in the tens of thousands, the by-elections present a challenging situation for the governing party. Kingswood's vote was triggered by Mr Skidmore's resignation in protest at government legislation to boost North Sea oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile, the by-election in Wellingborough follows the six-week suspension of former MP Peter Bone from the Commons due to bullying and sexual misconduct allegations. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is bracing for defeats in both constituencies.

Concerns for the Government and Potential Tory Rebel Reaction

If the government loses both seats, it will surpass any administration since the 1960s in terms of by-election losses in a single Parliament. This could potentially embolden Tory rebels who have been seeking to replace Rishi Sunak as leader. Former cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke attempted to oust Sunak as leader last month. The results of these by-elections may have a significant impact on the future of the Conservative Party.

Labour Faces Challenges as Well

However, it's not just the government that is facing a tough week. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is dealing with one of his biggest crises as leader. A recent survey by Savant shows that Labour's lead over the Tories has shrunk to its smallest margin since last summer. The party's support has dropped by five points in the past two weeks, reaching its lowest level since June 2023. Negative headlines surrounding the party's stance on green energy projects and the handling of antisemitism allegations have contributed to this decline.

Upcoming Rochdale By-Election and New Voting Laws

In addition to the by-elections in Kingswood and Wellingborough, a separate by-election will take place in Rochdale on February 29. Voters participating in these elections will need to bring photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence, due to new laws implemented by the government.

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