Keir Starmer has reason for cheer this morning after his party comfortably held the City of Chester following Thursday’s by-election. Labour candidate Samantha Dixon increased the majority her predecessor Christian Matheson won in the 2019 general election from 6,164 to 10,974. Labour had a swing of just over 13 per cent from the Conservatives – securing 61 per cent of the vote.

Following the result, the new Labour MP was quick to pitch the result as damning for the Tories: ‘Tonight the people of Chester have sent a clear message. They have said Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives no longer have a mandate to govern’. Dixon said she was confident that in a general election ‘Labour will win as decisively as I have done today’.

Labour’s victory in Chester will serve to further boost Starmer’s confidence

So, how damning is the result for Rishi Sunak? It’s the first electoral test he has had since entering 10 Downing Street in October. Yet given the national polling – with the latest YouGov poll giving Labour a 25-point-lead over the Conservatives – a Labour hold was widely priced in. Where Starmer’s party ran a well-organised local campaign in the area, activists on the ground say the Conservatives in contrast kept a relatively low profile.

Despite this, Chester isn’t exactly a traditional Labour safe seat. In 2015, it was the most marginal constituency in the country, with Labour winning it by 93 votes. The circumstances, too, of Matheson’s departure after he resigned over ‘serious sexual misconduct’ claims means that in other circumstances the Tories could have spied an opportunity here.

It follows that today’s result is unlikely to be a game changer for how Tory MPs view Sunak’s leadership just over a month in. He inherited a difficult situation from Liz Truss, with the polls really turning in Starmer’s favour after her not-so-mini-Budget. Since then, Sunak has led over Starmer in a several polls on the question of who would make the best prime minister. There has been a small narrowing in the polls but no major bounce for the Tories.

The Chester result is a reminder of why aides in No. 10 are keen to avoid successive by-elections. Sunak is reported to be considering blocking Boris Johnson’s plan to elevate four Conservative MPs to the Lords which would spark by-elections unless they broke convention and deferred taking them until the next election. As Boris Johnson discovered, by-election losses in Tory-held seats pose a greater risk to Conservative morale – with repeated Tory losses to the Liberal Democrats a key factor in his eventual demise. For now, Labour’s victory in Chester will serve to further boost Starmer’s confidence at a time when Tory MPs are finding very little reason for cheer at all.

QOSHE - Labour win Chester by-election with increased majority - Katy Balls
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Labour win Chester by-election with increased majority

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02.12.2022

Keir Starmer has reason for cheer this morning after his party comfortably held the City of Chester following Thursday’s by-election. Labour candidate Samantha Dixon increased the majority her predecessor Christian Matheson won in the 2019 general election from 6,164 to 10,974. Labour had a swing of just over 13 per cent from the Conservatives – securing 61 per cent of the vote.

Following the result, the new Labour MP was quick to pitch the result as damning for the Tories: ‘Tonight the people of Chester have sent a clear message. They have said Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives no longer have a mandate to govern’. Dixon said she was confident that in a general election ‘Labour will win........

© The Spectator


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