2 min read
The Conservatives have held the South London seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup in a by-election despite concerns that the ongoing sleaze row could hit the party’s results in the area.
Conservative candidate Louie French was announced as the new MP for the seat on Friday morning.
He took the seat with a drastically reduced majority of 4,478, down from 19,000 at the 2019 general election. There was a 10% swing to Labour, and a turnout of 34%.
“My focus will now be delivering on those promises that I made during the campaign – get our fair share of London’s police officers, securing more investment for local schools and hospitals, protecting our precious green spaces,” French said in a victory speech in the early hours of Friday morning.
“This is the greatest honour of my life. And I hope it inspires people to achieve their own dreams.”
Eleven candidates ran in total, including independent candidate Carol Valinejad, the Green Party’s Jonathan Rooks and Liberal Democrats’s Simone Reynolds.
The by-election was triggered following the death of former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire in October.
Brokenshire had held the seat at four successive elections, most recently winning it in 2019 with a 19,000-strong majority.
The constituency has been a ‘True Blue’ seat since its formation in 1983, returning only Tory MPs, and the area was once represented by Prime Minister Ted Heath for over 50 years.
There had been concern from some quarters that the ongoing sleaze row in the government could harm the party’s chances in the area.
Some suggested that the influx of high-profile support was a sign of disquiet within the party about its prospects.
It came after dozens of MPs and ministers, including prime minister Boris Johnson, had been pictured campaigning in the constituency, which is less than an hour from Westminster.
But MPs were quick to dismiss such claims to PoliticsHome earlier this week, insisting that campaigners had always been “confident” they’d take the seat.
The Conservative party will be hoping to repeat today’s victory at a second by-election in North Shropshire on 16 December. The seat has become available following the resignation of verteran MP Owen Paterson, who was forced to stand down over his role in the government’s botched attempt to reform parliamentary standards last month.
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