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East Bristol’s bellwether washes away Tory majority

Labour have won the Kingswood Parliamentary Constituency for the first time since 2005 in a hotly contested by-election caused by the resignation of former MP Chris Skidmore.

Company Director James Hinchcliffe analyses the critical factors at play in this blow for the Tories and boon for Labour. The full result can be found in our analysis.

The story of the Labour victory

Turnout a factor as Tories stay at home; like other by-elections in this Parliament, a prominent feature of this contest was a collapse in turnout compared to the 2019 General Election. The figure of 37% only just beat the 34% in last May’s South Glos Council Local Elections. The Tories lost around 19,000 votes, contrasting with 5,000 lost Labour votes when looking at General Election 2019.

Labour breaks sixty-year record with win; a first Kingswood win for Labour in nearly 20 years set a new record number of by-election defeats during a single Government parliamentary term. The voter swing was over 16%.

Reform snatches Tory votes? The assumption is that the rebranded UKIP attracts disillusioned Conservatives. A direct transfer of votes here would have resulted in a Tory win. “Vote Reform, Get Labour” will be a future line of Tory attack.

JBP Analysis

As darkness fell on Kingswood, the rain was unrelenting in the final hours before the polls closed. Voters chose to wash away nearly fourteen years of Tory incumbency in the bellwether of all bellwether parliamentary seats.

Kingswood’s residents have ‘picked’ the Government at  General Elections in every contest since it was formed in 1974. The only exception? When John Major defied expectations to win the 1992 General Election for the Conservatives, former MP Roger Berry won the seat.

Of course, this is the last time Kingswood voters will choose an MP for this constituency. Boundary changes mean that Mr Egan will represent Kingswood for a matter of months before it is dissolved and split into parts to join other constituencies.

His future lies in the new constituency of Bristol North East where bar an electoral miracle, he will be elected at the next General Election.

The Tories might feel disappointed that a campaign which forced Labour onto the defensive with clever stunts to highlight Mr Egan’s recent former role as Mayor of Lewisham and underlining of the Lib-Lab South Glos Council partnership’searly plans for Green Belt release didn’t unlock a greater reward.

But outrunning the national picture is exceptionally hard for any local party, let alone one whose Government is threatened by a landslide. What could be at the top of Mr. Egan’s inbox? Perhaps a meeting with the pressure groups set up to oppose Green Belt release for housing in Kingswood. The irony? Not a single site in the Council’s emerging plan is within his future constituency.

James Hinchcliffe, Strategic Engagement Director at JBP