politics

Bexley by-election result: Tories hold safe seat but Labour cut majority by 10%



The Tories held a safe seat in a suburban London stronghold but saw its majority of nearly 19,000 slashed to just 4,478 amid low turnout and a stronger showing by Labour.

Conservative Louie French took more than half the votes in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election, while only a third of those eligible to vote took part in the contest triggered by the death of Tory MP James Brokenshire in October.

The turn-out was 34%, with 21,788 votes cast, down from almost 70% at the snap general election two years ago, when 46,145 votes were cast.

The Conservatives expected to retain the constituency despite a bruising few weeks for Boris Johnson’s administration.

The contest took place following damaging headlines over allegations of sleaze, claims that lockdown rules were broken in No 10 and the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Mr French was the bookmakers’ firm favourite to win the election, with Labour acknowledging that they did not expect an upset.






The result was announced at about 2am on Friday

In his acceptance speech shortly after 2am on Friday, the new MP said: “I’m incredibly proud of the campaign my team and I have run based on local issues that matter to the people who live here.

“And tonight, those people send a clear message: they want an MP who will work with the Government to deliver on their priorities.

“My focus will now be delivering on those promises that I made during the campaign – get our fair share of London’s police officers, securing more investment for local schools and hospitals, protecting our precious green spaces.”

He promised voters he would “work tirelessly to repay the trust that you’ve placed in me and I will not let you down”.

Mr French, a local councillor, said he was the first home-grown MP for the seat.

“This is the greatest honour of my life. And I hope it inspires people to achieve their own dreams.”







Election staff sort ballot papers during the count for the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election
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Ellie Reeves, Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge, said: “We’re pleased with the result tonight.

“This is a Conservative stronghold, somewhere that had a 19,000 majority at the last general election and what we’ve seen tonight is that majority being slashed. There’s been a 10% swing over to Labour this evening.

“We’ve been knocking on doors for weeks here and finding many, many Conservative voters that have said actually I’m not going to vote for them this time, I’m going to vote for Labour.

“I think it’s clear that we’re winning back the trust of people and it’s a remarkable result for us in a Tory stronghold.”

Restricting the Conservatives to less than 50% of the vote would be “great”, a Labour source said before the result was announced.

A party official dismissed the suggestion from Conservative deputy chair Justin Tomlinson that Labour would have to run the Tories “very, very close” if it was serious about being an alternative government.







Tory MP James Brokenshire died in October after a battle with lung cancer
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They said: “No Conservative candidate has every got below 50% in this seat. If we can get them down to 49%, that will be great.”

Mr French’s share of more than 50% of the vote is “almost unheard of”, the Conservative deputy chairman has said.

Justin Tomlinson said: “We’re absolutely thrilled. For a Government to get over 50% of the vote in a parliamentary by-election is almost unheard of, and with a majority of over 20%.

“A fantastic local candidate, positive campaign, focused on the tangible difference we’re making to people’s lives, having navigated the unprecedented challenges of Covid.”

He added that the result was an “absolute disaster” for the Labour Party, saying: “They do not look like a Government in waiting.”

Reform leader Richard Tice came in third, claiming his party was now “on the upward march”.

A string of senior Tories, including the Prime Minister, have visited the constituency during the by-election campaign, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps among the MPs bolstering the effort to get out the vote on Thursday.

But a turnout of just 34% suggests the by-election contest has failed to excite the public in the constituency.

Labour also had a high-profile on the streets of Old Bexley and Sidcup, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and her sister and shadow solicitor general Ellie among those knocking on doors on polling day on behalf of candidate Daniel Francis.

Former Cabinet minister Mr Brokenshire, who had represented the constituency since 2010, was diagnosed with early stage lung cancer in 2018.

He held the seat in 2019 with a large majority of 18,952 votes.

A defeat in the by-election would have been a major blow for Mr Johnson, who has suffered a hit in the polls following weeks of sleaze allegations and political blunders.

The constituency has always had a Conservative MP since it was created in 1983.

Former Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath held the seat – and its predecessor, Bexley – for 51 years.

The last time Labour won in the constituency was in a 1946 by-election.

The seat is in the outer-London boroughs where the Tories and Liberal Democrats are traditionally successful.

However Labour would expect to face criticism if it failed to cut the Conservative majority, on what is expected to be a low turnout.

Tributes poured in from across politics to Mr Brokenshire on his death in October at just 53-years-old.

The popular MP was hailed by many for his kindness and decency.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary to have lung surgery.

He returned to Parliament only five weeks later.

Mr Brokenshire was made Housing Secretary from April 2018 to July 2019, and he was named as Security Minister in 2020 by Boris Johnson.







Mr French arrives at Christchurch Church Hall in Sidcup, Kent, to cast his vote on Thursday
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He took a leave of absence in January 2021 to prepare for another operation, and resigned in July after struggling with his recovery.

Mr Brokenshire, who had never smoked, announced in August that the cancer had progressed and he was starting a new line of treatment.

Announcing his death in October, his family said in a statement: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of James Brokenshire MP at the age of 53.

“James died peacefully at Darent Valley Hospital yesterday evening with family members by his bedside.

“He had been in hospital since Sunday after his condition rapidly deteriorated.

“James was not only a brilliant Government minister as both Security and Immigration Minister at the Home Office and Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government, but a dedicated constituency MP, first for Hornchurch from 2005 to 2010, and then for Old Bexley & Sidcup for the past 11 years.

“But most importantly, he was a loving father to his three children, a devoted husband to Cathy and a faithful friend to so many.”

Full results

The full results of the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election are:

Conservative hold.

  • Louie French (C) 11,189 (51.48%, -13.06%)
  • Daniel Francis (Lab) 6,711 (30.88%, +7.40%)
  • Richard Tice (Reform) 1,432 (6.59%)
  • Jonathan Rooks (Green) 830 (3.82%, +0.62%)
  • Simone Reynolds (LD) 647 (2.98%, -5.31%)
  • Elaine Cheeseman (Eng Dem) 271 (1.25%)
  • John Poynton (UKIP) 184 (0.85%)
  • Richard Hewison (Rejoin) 151 (0.69%)
  • David Kurten (Heritage) 116 (0.53%)
  • Carol Valinejad (CPA) 108 (0.50%)
  • Mad Mike Young (Loony) 94 (0.43%)
  • Conservative majority 4,478 (20.60%)

10.23% swing Conservative to Labour.

Electorate 64,827; Turnout 21,733 (33.52%, -36.28%).

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