Labour

LABOUR has this morning won the Blackpool South by-election to steal the seat back from the Tories.

Chris Webb defeated the Conservative candidate David Jones by 10,825 votes to 3,218 – a 26 per cent swing in the Red Wall town.

Labour's Chris Webb has taken the Blackpool South seat, held by the Tories since the 2019 General Election

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Labour’s Chris Webb has taken the Blackpool South seat, held by the Tories since the 2019 General ElectionCredit: Reuters
Counting agents at work at Blackpool Leisure Centre for the parliamentary by-election

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Counting agents at work at Blackpool Leisure Centre for the parliamentary by-electionCredit: LNP

Right-wing insurgents Reform UK ran the Tories close but failed to beat them, getting pipped into third on 3,101.

The Tories expected a tough night – knowing governing parties usually struggle in by-elections, on top of a controversy that led to the by-election.

But as local election results are counted across the country, Sir Keir Starmer declared Blackpool South “The most important result today.”

The Labour leader said: “This is the one contest where voters had the chance to send a message to Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives directly, and that message is an overwhelming vote for change.”

He added: “The message is clear. It’s time for change, it’s time for a general election.”

The contest was triggered by the resignation of former Tory MP Scott Benton, who was suspended last year after being caught in a lobbying sting

Mr Benton had snatched the seat from Labour MP Gordon Marsden in 2019, with a majority of just over 3,000. 

The former councillor and primary school teacher, 36, from Newport, Wales – had the whip removed in April last year.

He had suggested to undercover reporters, posing as investors, that he would lobby ministers in exchange for money.

Mr Benton stepped down instead of waiting for the outcome of a recall petition amid his 35-day suspension from Parliament.

Blackpool South was previously held by the Tories for decades after its creation in 1945.

It was then won by Labour in 1997.

Tonight’s defeat is the Conservatives’ 11th so far this parliament.

Blackpool South comprises of the central and southern parts of Blackpool, including Blackpool Tower and the Pleasure Beach.

Blackpool FC and the site of Blackpool Airport are also within the boundaries.

RED WALL

It formed a tower of strength in the so-called red wall after Tony Blair took power, until it toppled to the Conservatives once again in 2019.

Mr Webb had said during his campaign he was “standing in this election because I care”.

He added: “Voters now have the opportunity to elect someone who is Blackpool born and bred and who will always put Blackpool South first.”

Mr Jones – who had earmarked cracking down on crime and reopening Blackpool Airport to commercial flights – claimed the constituency’s Labour-run council has left the people poorer.

He told the Blackpool Gazette that local people are having to pay more council tax, but getting less in return. 

He said: “Since 1991, Blackpool Council has been Labour for 29 out of 33 years with Council tax going up by 45% since 2016.” 

He added: “Blackpool Council has currently borrowed £400 million and wants to increase this by 2027 to £640 million.

“The interest on that will be £23 million a year, meaning less money for key services.”

SIGH OF RELIEF

While tonight’s defeat will be tough to bear, the Tories will be breathing a sigh of relief Reform UK did not claim the runner-up position. 

The by-election represented a crucial bellwether moment for gauging the electoral potency of the Brexit party’s successor.

The contest comes on the same day as local elections across England and Wales, with Rishi Sunak‘s party having been bracing for more significant losses.

They were predicted to lose half of their councillors, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt admitting on Wednesday they knew it was going to be a “difficult” day.

Most of the seats up for re-election were last contested in 2021, at the peak of Boris Johnson’s popularity as the Covid-19 vaccine was rolled out.

A total of 11 mayoral contests took place, including for the London mayoralty between front runners, Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan and Tory rival Susan Hall.

Tory mayors Andy Street in the West Midlands, and Tees Valley’s Ben Houchen also faced key re-election battles, with polls suggesting narrow contests with their Labour opponents.

Ex-Tory MP Scott Benton won the seat during the 2019 General Election

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Ex-Tory MP Scott Benton won the seat during the 2019 General Election
Mr Benton stepped down last month after being suspended last year

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Mr Benton stepped down last month after being suspended last yearCredit: Alamy



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