The Conservative Pary has won the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election caused by the death of the sitting Conservative MP, James Brokenshire, from lung cancer on 7th October. The Conservatives retained the seat with a majority of 4,478, polling 51.5% of the vote albeit after a swing of 10% to Labour.
Even though the Conservatives experienced a dramatically reduced majority, on a low turnout of 33.5%, the result will come as a relief to the Conservative hierarchy after a difficult month of media headlines.
The result was far better than the 19.9% swing that the party experienced in Chesham and Amersham in June this year.
Since taking power in 2010, and prior to Old Bexley and Sidcup, the Conservatives have defended 10 by-election seats and have won just 3 of them (Sleaford and North Hykeham, Witney, and Newark). The Labour Party has been responsible for just one of those Conservative losses, that of Corby back in 2012.
Championing the Old Bexley result, the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Justin Tomlinson commented, “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%”. During the campaign a large number of big hitters, ranging from Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak and Theresa May all campaigned in the constituency.
At the same time, the Labour MP, for the nearby seat of Lewisham West and Penge, Ellie Reeves pointed to the 10% swing to Labour claiming the party was “pleased” with the result.
The result marked an atrocious evening for the Liberal Democrats. Polling just 3% of the vote, the Party lost their £500 deposit coming fifth behind Reform UK and the Green Party. On a campaigning level, the Lib Dems are though focusing on the Shropshire North by-election due to be held in a fortnight’s time.
In 2019, Old Bexley and Sidcup was the fifth safest, of the twenty one seats that the Conservatives won in Greater London. In the General Election, the Conservatives won the seat with 64.5% of the vote and a majority of 18,952.
Located in the South East of London, and sandwiched between the A2 and A20 roads that run from the M25 into central London, this area of the capital can be characterized as strong ‘Boris’ territory. A Brexit supporting commuter area, 62.5% of voters in the Borough of Bexley backed Boris Johnson in his 2012 London mayoral victory.
The victorious Conservative candidate, Louie French, now follows former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, to become the fourth Conservative MP to have represented this area since the seat was first created in 1983. A keen cyclist, Mr French previously worked in the City of London and served as the Deputy Leader of Bexley Council. He has lived in Bexley all his life.
Louise French wore the rosette of his predecessor, James Brokenshire, on election night. Praising Mr Brokenshire, the new MP said, “I’d like to pay tribute to my good friend, James Brokenshire who represented this seat for more than 10 years and who fought for the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup every day. I can’t put into words how much the support of his wife Kathy has meant to me during this campaign and her strength and bravery throughout has been inspiring”.
The full result of the by-election is as follows
Louie French – Conservative – 11,189 (51.5%)
Daniel Francis- Labour – 6,711 (30.9%)
Richard Tice – Reform UK – 1,432 (6.6%)
Jonathan Rooks – Green – 830 (3.8%)
Simone Reynolds – Liberal Democrats – 647 (3.0%)
Elaine Cheeseman – English Democrats – 271 (1.3%)
John Poynton – UK Independence Party – 184 (0.9%)
Richard Hewison – Rejoin EU – 151 (0.7%)
David Kurten – Heritage Party – 116 (0.5%)
Carol Valinejad – Christian Peoples Alliance – 108 (0.5%)
Mad Yung – Official Monster Raving Loony – 94 (0.4%)