Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Conservative Party are bracing themselves for a series of unwelcome verdicts from voters. The UK gears up for three special House of Commons elections this week. Taking place in northern England, southwest England, and London’s suburban fringe. These elections provide a broad cross-section of voters with an opportunity to voice their opinions on the party that has governed Britain since 2010.
With anticipation of a challenging outcome, Prime Minister Sunak acknowledged the difficulties typically faced by incumbent governments in midterm by-elections. However, the prospect of losing all three seats is relatively rare. Last witnessed in 1968 during the tenure of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
UK special elections are an extension of the lingering shockwaves resulting from the tumultuous term of former leader Boris Johnson. Johnson resigned as a lawmaker last month, almost a year after stepping down as prime minister. His departure came after a standards watchdog determined that he had misled Parliament about hosting parties in his office during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following Johnson’s resignation, one of his allies also left, and another lawmaker resigned amidst allegations of misconduct involving sex and drugs. Consequently, these three by-elections were triggered.
The Labour Party aims to secure victory in Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in suburban London. As well as in the urban-rural constituency of Selby and Ainsty in northern England, vacated by Johnson’s ally, Nigel Adams. Meanwhile, the centrist Liberal Democrats are expected to perform well in the southwest England constituency of Somerton and Frome. Which was vacated by Conservative legislator David Warburton due to allegations of cocaine use and sexual misconduct.
Labour Party Holds Significant Lead in Nationwide Opinion Polls
A series of Conservative defeats would amplify concerns that Sunak has failed to reverse the party’s fortunes after the turmoil caused by the scandal-ridden Johnson administration.
The ongoing challenges for the Conservative Party also stem from economic repercussions inherited by Sunak. He assumed office in the aftermath of former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s brief term. During which her tax-cutting economic plans led to increased government borrowing costs and a weakened pound. This worsened an existing cost-of-living crisis, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that one in twenty people in the UK struggle to afford food each month.
Multiple opinion polls conducted this week indicate a significant lead of at least 15 points for the Labour Party over the Conservatives nationwide. These results further highlight the mounting pressure on the ruling party and its need to address the concerns raised by voters.
As the special elections unfold, the outcomes will shed light on the British public’s sentiment towards the Conservatives’ governance. Potentially shaping the party’s future strategies and policies.