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LABOUR suffered its worst by-election result ever today in another chastening night for leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Coming just weeks after the Tories took Hartlepool for the first time in a separate by-election last month, Labour finished fourth in Chesham and Amersham, polling just 622 votes — a 1.6 per cent share — losing its deposit in the process.
The vote in the Buckinghamshire constituency was also a big setback for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as the Lib Dems overturned a Conservative majority of more than 16,000 to win the seat for the first time after nearly 50 years of Tory rule.
Labour’s dismal showing, which saw it finish behind the Greens’ 1,480 votes, was another humiliating defeat for Sir Keir after Labour finished second in the seat under former leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 with 11,374 votes. It came third in 2019 with over 7,000.
Mr Corbyn’s successor faces another crucial by-election test in Batley and Spen on July 1. Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has already suggested that defeat for Sir Keir “would be curtains” for his leadership.
The West Yorkshire constituency, which backed Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum, has voted Labour since 1997, but polls suggest that the Tories have a fighting chance of taking the seat.
Reacting to today’s result, Ms Abbott told the Morning Star: “It’s quite extraordinary how bad our party’s showing was. We were promised that the change of leadership would bring greater electability. The evidence to date is that it has done the opposite.”
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said that the stunning win, which saw the party’s candidate Sarah Green take 56.7 per cent of the vote to secure a majority of more than 8,000 over Tory candidate Peter Fleet, would “send a shock wave” through British politics.
He claimed the result shows that the “blue wall” of Tory southern seats could be vulnerable. The PM conceded that the party had a “disappointing” night.
Major issues in the by-election, triggered by the death of former Welsh secretary Dame Cheryl Gillan in April after a long illness, included the HS2 rail line, which cuts through the constituency, and proposed planning reforms which have sparked fears about building in the nearby Chilterns countryside.
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