'Fantastic results': Labour secures double victory in Kingswood and Wellingborough by-elections

Wellingborough and Kingswood were previously considered safe Tory seats but overnight Labour clinched both of them

Rishi Sunak has suffered a double blow after losing both the Kingswood and Wellingborough by-elections on Friday.

The prime minister insisted the circumstances around the by-elections were "particularly challenging" after Labour overturned two big majorities, which Sir Keir Starmer said showed "people are crying out for change".

Labour overturned majorities of 11,220 and 18,540, delivering the government’s ninth and tenth by-election defeats of the current Parliament and securing its second largest swing from the Conservatives ever.

Gen Kitchen secured Wellingborough with 45.8% of the vote, while Damien Egan won Kingswood with 44.9% of the vote.

In Wellingborough, the swing of 28.5% was the second biggest from the Tories to Labour in any by-election since the Second World War.

The results provided Labour with a boost after a U-turn on the party’s pledge to spend £28 billion on green projects and an antisemitism row that forced it to drop its candidate for another by-election in Rochdale in two weeks’ time.

The twin defeat piles more pressure on the prime minister following the news that the UK entered a recession at the end of 2023, while Reform UK scored its best by-election results after targeting disgruntled voters on the right, securing more than 10% of the vote for the first time in a by-election.

Reform deputy leader Ben Habib won 13% of the vote in Wellingborough, while Rupert Lowe won 10% in Kingswood.

The results also mean the government has now suffered the most by-election defeats of any government since the 1960s, surpassing the eight defeats suffered by John Major in the run-up to Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide victory.

Mr Sunak claimed there is “not a huge amount of enthusiasm” for Labour despite the party flipping Tory majorities in the tens of thousands overnight.

Senior Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told ITV News West Country Political Correspondent Lucy McDaid in Kingswood that 'more people are switching from Conservative to Reform, than are switching from Conservative to Labour'

“Midterm elections are always difficult for incumbent governments, and the circumstances of these elections were of course particularly challenging," he added.

The PM said it was a "very low turnout" but the victories still show "that we’ve got work to do to show people that we are delivering on their priorities". 

Sir Keir hailed the victories, saying: “These are fantastic results in Kingswood and Wellingborough that show people want change and are ready to put their faith in a changed Labour Party to deliver it.

“By winning in these Tory strongholds, we can confidently say that Labour is back in the service of working people and we will work tirelessly to deliver for them.

“The Tories have failed. Rishi’s recession proves that. That’s why we’ve seen so many former Conservative voters switching directly to this changed Labour Party.

“Those who gave us their trust in Kingswood and Wellingborough, and those considering doing so, can be safe in the knowledge that we will spend every day working to get Britain’s future back.”

In Wellingborough, the result announced at 4am showed Ms Kitchen, who cut short her honeymoon to campaign in the by-election, saw a Tory majority of more than 18,000 turn into a Labour majority of 6,436.

The swing of 28.5% is the largest from the Conservatives to Labour since the 1994 Dudley West by-election, where a 29.1% swing presaged Tony Blair’s landslide victory three years later.

Ms Kitchen said: “The people of Wellingborough have spoken for Britain. This is a stunning victory for the Labour Party and must send a message from Northamptonshire to Downing Street.”

Labour's Gen Kitchen celebrates with her family after being declared winner in the Wellingborough by-election. Credit: PA

In Kingswood, where the result was announced shortly before 2am, Labour’s Mr Egan defeated Conservative Sam Bromiley, securing 11,176 votes and a majority of 2,501.

In his victory speech, Mr Egan said: “In Kingswood, as across the country, 14 years of Conservative Government have sucked the hope out of our country with a feeling that no matter how hard you work, you just can’t move forward.

“And with Rishi’s recession we’re left again paying more and getting less. It doesn’t have to be this way, you know it, I know it, we all know it."

Labour's Damien Egan hugs his husband after being declared MP for Kingswood. Credit: PA

Speaking about his win, he told ITV News: "It just means so much to me. To be surrounded by my family, to have had a really positive campaign and reconnected with lots of school friends that I had, to represent the area that you grew up in that you know so well, that you love.

"I just hope I can really make a positive difference."

Defeated Conservative candidate Sam Bromiley left the count as soon as Mr Egan had finished speaking, declining to comment to reporters.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged the Tories would need to “learn” from the results, saying: “Conservative Party votes are most likely to come from people who stay at home or who voted Reform.

“How do we win them back to the Tory family? People who share many views and values with us."

The defeats mean the Conservatives have suffered more by-election losses in this Parliament than any previous government since the 1960s, surpassing the eight defeats experienced by John Major between 1992 and 1997.

Chris Skidmore was the MP in Kingswood, before he resigned at the start of the year over legislation to boost North Sea oil and gas drilling.

Mr Skidmore had led a government review of net zero and made a scathing attack on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's environmental commitments.

He won the Gloucestershire constituency for the Tories at the past four general elections, before which Labour held it at every general election since 1992.

The by-election in Wellingborough was triggered by a six-week suspension of Conservative MP Peter Bone after an inquiry found he had subjected a member of staff to bullying and sexual misconduct.

The report concluded he "committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct" more than 10 years ago, which he denied.

New laws meant that voters needed to bring photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence, with them in order to vote.

Have you heard our podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…