Diane Abbott reacts to Labour's Batley and Spen election win
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Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party suffered one of its worst election defeats in decades in the 2019 general election. Labour secured 202 seats, losing 60 seats compared to the previous election, while the Conservatives gained 48 seats for a 365-seat majority under Boris Johnson. Many of the seats Labour lost in 2019 were considered traditional heartland seats in the north of England. The prevalence of pro-Brexit attitudes in the ‘red wall’ constituencies was thought to be a contributing factor to Labour losing so many loyal supporters, as many criticised the party’s somewhat neutral stance towards Brexit.
A chart of Labour’s vote share in by-elections shows a declining trend for the party since the EU referendum was held in 2016.
The UK voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016, and six by-elections were held after this point until the 2017 snap general election.
The Batley and Spen by-election, which took place after Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered, is not included in the chart, as no other major political parties contested the seat out of respect.
In all five other by-elections during this period, the chart shows Labour’s vote share decreased compared to the previous election.
The 2017 by-election in Copeland saw Labour lose their hold on the seat, gaining only 37.3 percent of the vote share, while the Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison won with 44.2 percent.
In the Copeland election, Labour’s vote share dropped by 4.9 percent compared to the previous election.
The Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election in 2017 saw Labour’s vote share drop by 2.2. percent.
In the 2016 Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election, Labour’s vote share dropped by 7.1 percent.
Labour’s performance in by-elections after the 2017 general election
Five by-elections were held in the UK after the 2017 general election, two of which were in England, one in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.
The Conservative seat of Brecon and Radnorshire resulted in a swing to the Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Dodds.
Three of the by-elections held in Peterborough, Newport West and Lewisham East resulted in Labour holding on to the seats they had won previously.
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However, the chart shows in all four of the by-elections, Labour’s vote share decreased significantly compared to the previous election results.
In Peterborough, Labour candidate Lisa Forbes held on to the seat for the party, despite facing significant opposition from Brexit Party candidate, Mike Greene.
However, the Labour vote share in Peterborough dropped by a staggering 17.2 percent compared to the previous election.
In Newport West, Labour won the seat, but their vote share dropped by 12.7 percent compared to the party’s previous election result in the constituency.
The Lewisham East by-election saw Labour cling onto the seat, but the party was down 17.7 percent on its previous vote share.
Labour’s performance in by-elections after the 2019 general election
Data shows that since the 2019 general election was held, four by-elections have taken place and Labour has only just won one this week in Batley and Spen.
Following the death of Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan, the Chesham and Amersham by-election in June resulted in Liberal Democrat gains, with Labour securing only 1.6 percent of the vote share.
But the loss of the Hartlepool by-election in May was a bigger blow for Labour, as it meant the party lost another traditional heartland seat to the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer.
Labour’s vote share in the Hartlepool by-election dropped by nine percent compared to the previous election, with Labour candidate Paul Williams securing almost 7,000 less votes than his Conservative rival.
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