The third of the three by-elections this Thursday comes up in Yorkshire where Labour go into the week as the odds-on favourites to win a seat they weren’t even remotely targeting a handful of weeks ago. Things come at you fast in politics and this could be the result that causes Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a real headache…
Losing in West London to Labour would be a big disappointment but understandable. Uxbridge & South Ruislip has been on Sir Keir Starmer’s party radar for a while. Going down to yet another by-election loss to the Lib Dems would not shock anyone should they pull off the win in Somerton & Frome. Taking a beating in Selby & Ainsty however would be quite the political problem for the third PM of this parliament.
Labour will admit themselves that in a General Election, resources wouldn’t exactly be pouring into this constituency. Since its inception following the boundary review heading into the 2010 General Election, this seat has only ever returned a Conservative Member of Parliament and each time with a five-figure majority. However by-elections offer parties the chance to attack areas that wouldn’t usually be fertile ground and with strong national polling, this gives them a chance to really give the Tories a fright.
In terms of outright swing needed for Labour to win this seat, this comes in at 225th on Labour’s target seat list. Yet we have them as the 1/7 favourites to take the seat as of Monday lunchtime. That says plenty and when you recall that the Tories actually opened as the favourites here, that optimism has quickly dissipated.
In normal times this is a relatively safe Conservative hold albeit with the likelihood of a vastly reduced majority due to the nature of by-elections. These however are not normal times. Labour have had a double-digit lead in national polling for months and the Tories have been struggling to get north of 30% whereas Labour have consistently been in the mid to high 40’s. The smallest lead Starmer’s party have enjoyed in the past month has been 15%.
All this points to this count being by far the most fascinating of the night. The Tories go into the night with a stonking majority just north of 20,000 and are up against a party who haven’t exactly been working the vote for the past decade or so. Yet, the Cost of Living crisis is very much at the forefront of the minds of many and with tactical voting expected to coalesce the Anti-Tory vote around the Labour candidate, I fully understand why they are so short to pull this one off.
The only constituency poll that has been conducted and released during the campaign shows Labour with a 12-point lead coming in at 41% with the Tories down at just 29%, having won the vote with over 60% of the vote in 2019. If that holds up, this will be a huge night for Sir Keir Starmer, who will put many of his electability issues to bed. If the Red Rose party can win this seat then a Labour Outright Majority at the next General Election would look nailed on.
For Thursday alone however, the value clearly resides with the Tories to win at 9/2, even though I think they lose. Labour being just 1/7 to win from a standing start is just too short but out of the three by-elections taking place this week, this is the only one where the Conservatives seem to have any realistic hope of holding on. If they do, it will be a huge relief to the Prime Minister. Defeat however and the wolves will be howling with ever increasing gusto at the door of Number Ten.
*All prices correct at the time of writing
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