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Sunak's Conservatives Lose Important Seats, But Retain Johnson's Old Seat

U.K PM Rishi Sunak's Conservatives faced major setbacks in by-elections, but also got some much-needed relief.

Rishi Sunak
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On Friday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lost two strategically important seats in by-elections, but also got much-needed relief as his party retained the seat of former PM Boris Johnson. Major Opposition party Labour won a historic victory in the Selby seat, and also now have the youngest MP in Parliament in Keir Mather at 25.

The byelections are seen as the last eye test before the upcoming general elections next year in Britain, and a major indicator of electoral prospects for the parties, especially the two main ones, Labour and the governing Conservatives. As numbers poured in for the byelections, Labour and the Liberal Democrats each both won a seat off the governing Tories, who retained the third seat, narrowly avoiding a full sweep in a major relief for Rishi Sunak. Although doubts now hang over whether the technocratic former banker and finance minister can lead his party to a Commons majority in next year's general elections.

Labour's victory in Selby and Ainsty was historic, as they overturned the largest Conservative majority of over 20,000 votes since 1945, which allowed them to introduce the youngest parliamentarian in the House, Keir Mather. In Somerton and Frome, the Liberal Democrat's Sarah Dyke won a sweeping victory, crediting her win to Sunak's governnment's "circle of chaos".

However in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the seat of former PM Boris Johnson who resigned over misleading statements about parties at Downing Street during the peak of the coronavirus crisis, the Tories retained his seat. Postman Steve Tuckwell won the seat, crediting his win to the policies of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whose controversial Ulez policy helped him win the seat.

The retainment comes as a major relief for a harried Sunak who races to get his party together, and convince both his parliamentarians and the general public that he is the man who can retain their majority in next year's election. However, the byelections held more positive signs for the major Opposition party Labour. In addition to gaining two byelection seats since their Wakefield win in 2022, their Selby win exceeded the 12 point swing needed by the party to obtain an overall majority in next year's election, with Labour reaching 16 points.

The results were heralded in speeches by the candidates and senior party leaders, apparently exposing the weaknessess of the Conservatives in important seats and traditional strongholds.  Rishi Sunak will have to go back to the drawing board, as he thinks about how to keep his party afloat after being hit with a string of scandals in recent years. Opposition leader Keir Starmer who took to Twitter to congratulate the new MPs, noted that the results reflected how "powerful the demand for change is".

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