Labour have easily held the City of Chester following a byelection, winning by a majority of 10,974 in a brutal first electoral test for Rishi Sunak.
Receiving 17,309 votes with 61.22% of the vote share, Labour achieved their highest majority and share of the vote ever in the seat. Conversely, the Conservatives received just 6,335 votes and 22.4% vote share, their worst result in the constituency since 1832. The Liberal Democrats came a distant third on 2,368 votes.
Turnout was 41.2%, with 28,541 votes cast in total, a sizeable drop on the 71.7% turnout and 54,560 votes balloted in 2019. Despite already holding the seat, Labour still managed a swing of 13.76%.
Samantha Dixon, the newly elected MP, said in her victory speech early on Friday: “Tonight the people of Chester have sent a clear message. They have said Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives no longer have a mandate to govern.”
Asked how reflective the result was of the national mood, Dixon said: “I don’t think that the voters in Chester are that much different from those across the country. I think that it’s time now for a general election and I think Labour will win as decisively as I have done today.”
The constituency has come a long way from being the most marginal in the country in 2015, where Labour won by just 93 votes. In 2017, Labour won by 9,176 votes and by 6,164 in 2019.
Speaking after the result, Alison McGovern, the shadow minister for work and pensions and MP for Wirral South, said the people of Chester were “fed up of Tory rule and want the change Labour offers”.
“After the Tories crashed our economy, it’s clear that only Labour can be trusted to help families across the country make ends meet … The Tories have no mandate to govern. It’s time for a Labour government.”
Conservative candidate Elizabeth Wardlaw told local reporters it had “been a very good experience for me” before swiftly leaving the election count.
This was the first Westminster byelection since the resignation of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and the financial fallout from the mini-budget. While the Tories were not expected to take the seat, the fall in their share of the vote from 38.3% in 2019 to 22.4% on Thursday night is likely to add to fears among Conservatives in Westminster who are already facing dismal opinion polls nationally.
The byelection was triggered by Labour MP Chris Matheson resigning in October after allegations of sexual misconduct.
Parliament’s bullying and harassment watchdog and the standards commissioner found he had violated the Commons’ sexual misconduct policy.
The constituency’s status as a “safe seat” for Labour is a recent development. In 2010, the Conservatives took the seat from Labour with a 2,583 majority.
This is the 11th by-election held since the 2019 election. Labour have now won four of them, with the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives each having won three.
In terms of gains, the Liberal Democrats gained three seats while Labour and the Conservatives have gained one seat each. The SNP also held their seat in the 2021 Airdrie and Shotts by-election.
Dixon becomes the third Labour MP to represent the City of Chester in its history. Prior to 1997, the constituency had never elected a Labour MP.
Another by-election in the Labour safe seat of Stretford and Urmston will be held on 15 December following Kate Green’s resignation after being appointed Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for police and crime. No date has been set for the byelection yet in West Lancashire following the resignation of Labour’s Rosie Cooper to take up a role with the NHS.