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Labour by-election win shows public are ‘fed up’ with Tories, says Starmer

Labour’s Samantha Dixon celebrates after winning the City of Chester by-election (Danny Lawson/PA)
Labour’s Samantha Dixon celebrates after winning the City of Chester by-election (Danny Lawson/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer has hailed Labour’s by-election victory in the City of Chester, claiming it demonstrates the public are “fed up” with the Tory Government.

The party held on to the seat with a majority of 10,974, delivering a defeat to Rishi Sunak in his first electoral test as Prime Minister.

Labour took more than 61% of the vote, up from 50% at the last general election, albeit with a far smaller turnout.

Sir Keir sent “huge congratulations” to winner Samantha Dixon, who he said will be an “excellent” MP.

Speaking in Glasgow, the Labour leader called it a “very, very good result” for his party.

“The Labour Party has been putting forward a positive plan for the future, how we stabilise and grow our economy,” he said.

“So we were putting a positive choice to the electorate in Chester.

“The Government is worn out, tired, has crashed the economy. And the verdict was very, very clearly given. I think that’s a clear message to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that people are fed up.

“There’s this strong sense now that the Government has run out of road, run out of ideas, hasn’t got a mandate, and it’s time for change.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the Conservatives’ branding has taken a “pelting” as the people of Chester delivered a “huge message” to the Government on their desire for change.

She said Mr Sunak has overseen the Tories’ worst defeat in the City of Chester constituency since 1832, claiming it is “very clear” he does not have a “mandate to govern”.

Asked during a visit to Chester when the Labour leader will go to the city to say thank you to his activists, Ms Rayner said Sir Keir is currently in Scotland, but he “will be here”.

“And we’ll have a fantastic time when we get Sam in Parliament next week,” she added.

The contest was triggered by the resignation of Christian Matheson, who quit his Commons seat after complaints of “serious sexual misconduct” were upheld by a parliamentary watchdog.

Mr Matheson, who denied the allegations, was facing a four-week suspension and was asked to resign by Labour before he stood down.

Chester by-election
Local councillor Samantha Dixon held the seat for Labour with a 10,974-vote majority (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ms Dixon defeated Conservative candidate and NHS nurse Liz Wardlaw in the first Westminster by-election since Boris Johnson’s dramatic exit and the market chaos that came to define Liz Truss’s short stint in No 10.

Labour said the result sends a “clear message” to Mr Sunak and his new administration.

In her victory speech, Ms Dixon said: “People in Chester and across our country are really worried.

“Worried about losing their homes because they can’t afford the mortgage repayments or the rent, worried about whether they can put the heating on, worried about whether they can put food on the table for their families.

“This is the cost of 12 years of Conservative Government – the Government, which has wreaked havoc with our economy, destroyed our public services and betrayed the people who put their trust in them at the last general election.”

Labour had been widely expected to hold the seat, having won it in 2019 for the third time in a row with a majority of 6,164.

This time round, the party secured more than 61% of the vote and a 13.76% swing from the Tories.

Ms Wardlaw received 6,335 votes, or 22.40% – a result that Conservative peer and elections analyst Lord Robert Hayward said would be a “relief” for the Tories as “it’s not quite as bad as the opinion polls have been suggesting”.

Ms Dixon told reporters that she believes many people across the country feel the same as voters in Chester.

“It’s just that here people have had an opportunity to express how they feel,” she said.

Chester by-election
Labour’s Samantha Dixon celebrates after winning the Chester by-election (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner visited Chester on Friday to celebrate the result with the new MP, who will now take up her seat two years out from the next general election.

Lord Hayward told Sky News there were “no shocks” at the by-election, but “definite satisfaction” for Labour.

Senior Tory MP Charles Walker, who has said he will step down at the next election, said the vote was a “sort of live fire exercise” for the Tories’ performance in the polls.

“We certainly weren’t going to win it,” he told Times Radio.

“And I think the scale of the loss reflects where we stand in the opinion polls at the moment. So, in a sense, this by-election was a sort of live fire exercise for where the opinion polls currently have us.”

Sir Charles said the Tory party is in a “better place” than it was six weeks ago when Liz Truss was leading the country.

But he said he thinks it is “almost impossible” for the Conservatives to come back to win the next general election.

“Now, I hope what Rishi Sunak does is make sure Labour doesn’t wipe the floor with us, that we perhaps win 220 seats, and we form a viable opposition,” he said.

The last two by-elections, which took place on the same day in June, were a disaster for the Tories, with Labour snatching Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats securing a historic victory in Tiverton and Honiton.

The Chester result, which comes just over a month into Mr Sunak’s tenure as Prime Minister, is unlikely to be seen as a referendum on his leadership.

But it nonetheless comes as a blow to the party, which is facing an uphill battle to remain in office at the next nationwide poll.

The country is facing a gloomy outlook after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ushered in a fresh round of belt-tightening in the public finances in a bid to balance the books.

Households are struggling with sky-high living costs, while rail strikes and a planned walkout by nurses threaten to wreak havoc in the run-up to Christmas.