Conservatives could ‘hang on’ to Mid Bedfordshire if Labour and Lib Dems split vote, polling guru warns

The Conservative Party could retain Mid Bedfordshire if the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties split the anti-Tory vote, polling guru Sir John Curtice has warned. 

It comes after Nadine Dorries’ formal resignation from the House of Commons was confirmed on Monday — a full ten weeks after she initially declared her intention to resign.

The date of the upcoming by-election in Mid Bedfordshire is still to be confirmed, with the government expected to set a date for the by-election when parliament returns on 4th September. 

If the Conservatives move the writ immediately upon parliament’s return, the by-election would take place in the middle of Conservative Party conference at the start of October.

But Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Social Research, has told PoliticsHome that the prospect of a split vote will boost the Conservatives’ chances in the seat. 

If the Conservatives lose Mid Bedfordshire it would be the biggest by-election defeat ever.

“If there is any by-election where the Tories can hold on to the seat amid difficult circumstances, it’s probably Mid Bedfordshire, because both the [Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties] are determined to fight the seat,” he said.

He added: “The Tory vote could collapse but they could still hang on to it. So, perhaps the thing we should be looking at is not who wins, but by how much the Tory vote goes down.”

Labour finished second in Mid-Bedfordshire at the 2019 election with 14,028. The Liberal Democrats finished a distant third on 8,171 votes.

However, the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Sir Ed Davey have been campaigning wholeheartedly in the area, with leader Sir Ed visiting the constituency on Monday.

The party have also sought to downplay the implications of a June opinion poll which put the party in third place in Mid Bedfordshire. 

They have argued that the poll excluded a large number of “don’t knows” who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election. Ms Dorries amassed the support of 38,692 at the last election. 

The Opinium poll placed Labour in first place on 28 per cent, with the Conservatives in second place on 24 per cent.

The competition in Mid Bedfordshire follows the Liberal Democrats and Labour’s respective victories in Somerton and Frome and Selby and Ainsty last month.

In Somerton, Labour essentially stepped aside for the Liberal Democrats allowing the party to romp home with 21,187 votes on an 11,008 majority. 

But in Selby, Labour overturned a Conservative majority of over 20,000, while the Lib Dems amassed only 1,188 votes.