The Conservatives have lost their second by-election in as many weeks as Labour extend their lead in Stretford and Urmston.
Following the victory, Labour’s leader Sir Keir Starmer said “it’s time for a Labour government”. He also added that Labour’s increased margin of victory in the constituency shows that people were “fed up with 12 years of Tory failure”.
The result was expected, with Stretford and Urmston – the constituency that houses Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium – being a safe Labour seat, previously represented by Kate Green from 2010, and having been held by Labour since its creation in 1997.
However, the size of the defeat will trouble Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, with the Conservatives winning just 15.9% of the vote. That represents a fall of 11.7% and their lowest-ever return in the constituency.
It also reflects the national polling, with Labour increasing their share of the vote by 9.3%, suggesting that despite improvements in the Conservatives polling numbers in recent weeks, Rishi Sunak has a long way to go to avoid a 1997-style defeat at the next election.
The constituency is perhaps best known for once fielding model Katie Price as an independent candidate running on a manifesto of giving free plastic surgery and free package holidays on the NHS. She ran in the 2001 general election in the constituency, coming in last place with 1.8% of the vote. In an interview years later she admitted to never having voted in her life, apparently including when she herself was a candidate.
The constituency’s new MP, Andrew Western, is the current leader of Trafford Council and is expected to step down following his victory. He is replacing Kate Green, who is leaving Parliament early in order to take up a deputy mayoral position under Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.
The Conservatives could never have expected to win the seat, and turnout was low, however, some Conservatives in neighbouring seats were concerned about the result. Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee and MP for Altrincham said that backbenchers would be “concerned”.
The prime minister has been keeping a low profile since taking over from Liz Truss – an opposite approach from his two immediate predecessors. This has seen a recent climb in polling numbers for the Conservative Party, and their fall in the vote share at this election was less alarming than their 16% collapse in the recent Chester by-election, suggesting that this approach is starting to pay dividends for Rishi Sunak.