Voters across England head to the polls on Thursday for three by-elections, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s ruling Conservative Party set for defeat in each, as Britain’s economic condition worsens as it battles inflation.
The Tories are defending an overwhelming majority of seats in London, Yorkshire in northern England and Somerset in the south-west, but appear to be losing support due to the scandals of recent years and the grim economic picture.
The contest comes ahead of next year’s general election, in which the main opposition Labor Party enjoys an electoral lead of around 20 per cent and looks set to regain power for the first time in more than a decade.
Labor, led by its leader Keir Starmer, won local council elections in many parts of England in early May, while Sunak’s Conservatives suffered a heavy defeat in their first major electoral test since taking power last October.
The opposition has won five by-elections since March last year, but only one of those seats – Wakefield in Yorkshire – was wrested from the Tories.
Labor is now aiming to emulate the June 2022 achievement in nearby Selby and Ainstey, where Nigel Adams quit as Conservative MP last month after failing to be nominated for a peerage by former prime minister Boris Johnson. Had given.
The Labor Party is also hoping to win Johnson’s north-west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, as the scandal-tainted former leader himself resigned as MP last month and started voting.
He quit after learning that a cross-party parliamentary committee had concluded that he had deliberately lied to MPs about parties breaking lockdown during the COVID pandemic and recommended a 90-day suspension.
The Liberal Democrats intend to overturn the 20,000-strong Tory majority in Somerton and Frome after its Tory MP David Warburton stood down after admitting to cocaine use.
– ‘Difficult’ –
Sunak, who became prime minister after a disastrous 44-day term for predecessor Liz Truss, was initially successful in stabilizing jittery financial markets with her radical tax-cut agenda.
But the 43-year-old former finance minister has struggled to reverse his party’s declining fortunes, which first came to the fore under Johnson during the so-called “Partygate” scandal.
Sunak’s turnaround efforts have been partly hampered by persistently high inflation, which has once again spooked markets in recent months.
With interest rates at their highest in 15 years, mortgage and other borrowing costs rising steadily, the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation is showing few signs of abating.
Sunak began the year by making five key pledges to voters, including halving inflation, boosting the economy and cutting waiting times within the highly beleaguered National Health Service (NHS).
He has made little progress on most of the promises, and there remain persistent fears Britain will slide into recession this year as high interest rates continue to constrain spending.
According to YouGov, Sunak’s net favorability has fallen to his lowest level (-40) since he entered Downing Street, with two-thirds of Britons saying they have an unfavorable view of him.
His allies were downplaying the party’s prospects on Thursday, while insisting there was still time for a Tory revival ahead of the next national contest.
“As you’ve heard before, by-elections are very difficult for incumbent governments,” Sunak’s press secretary told reporters on the eve of the by-election, adding that the Conservative Party was “most focused” on the general election.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV Staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)