Three by-elections will be held in the UK on 20 July 2023: in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Selby and Ainsty, and Somerton and Frome.
The by-elections are being held following the resignations of Tory MPs Boris Johnson, Nigel Adams, and David Warburton.
David Warburton, the Conservative MP for Somerton and Frome, resigned on June 17, 2023, after being suspended from the party over allegations of sexual harassment and drug use.
Warburton was accused of making unwanted advances towards two women, and of taking cocaine. He denied the allegations, but said that he was resigning because he felt he had been denied a fair hearing by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
The ICGS is an independent body set up by Parliament to investigate allegations of harassment and bullying against MPs. Warburton said that he had been prevented from “speaking out” while the ICGS probed the claims, and that this had made it impossible for him to defend himself.
Nigel Adams, the Conservative MP for Selby and Ainsty, resigned on July 16, 2023, citing a number of reasons, including the “toxic” atmosphere in the Conservative Party following the resignation of Boris Johnson.
Adams was a close ally of Johnson, and he said that he was “deeply disappointed” by the way that the former Prime Minister had been treated. He also said that he was concerned about the direction of the Conservative Party under Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister.
In a statement on LinkedIn, Adams said: “I have taken the decision to resign as the Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty. This has not been an easy decision, but I believe it is the right one for me and my family.”
He went on to say: “The Conservative Party is currently in a state of flux. There is a great deal of anger and frustration among party members, and I do not believe that the current leadership is capable of uniting the party and winning the next general election.”
Adams also said that he was concerned about the “toxic” atmosphere in the Conservative Party. He said: “The party has become increasingly divided in recent years, and this is not sustainable. We need to find a way to come together and unite behind a common purpose.”
Labour is of course hoping to make gains in the by-elections, and they are currently leading the Conservatives in national opinion polls. The party has particularly targeted Uxbridge and South Ruislip, seeking a symbolic win in Boris Johnson’s usually staunchly blue former constituency – however, the odds aren’t in their favour.
Paul Whiteley, professor in the department of government at the University of Essex, said having multiple by-elections in one day was unusual and reflective of the crisis in the Conservative Party and UK Government.
He said: “If you look at the national picture in polling, it looks like Labour have a pretty good chance of winning Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris Johnson’s old seat.
“There is a poll which suggests that they might actually win Selby and Ainsty.
“But that’s a tall order because the majority over Labour in the last General Election in 2019 was more than 20,000.
“I’m not saying they couldn’t win, but it’s much more iffy.”
Whiteley added that there was a “good chance” the LibDems could win back Somerton and Frome, which they had lost in the wake of their unpopular coalition with the Conservatives.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has experienced a severe decline in support from Conservative members, many of whom hold him partly responsible for the ousting of popular leader Boris Johnson. With Sunak not truly connecting with the general public, and the majority of household names among the party now resigning, including the recent resignations of Nadine Dorries and Ben Wallace, the Tories are undoubtedly in for a bumpy ride at the next general election, and the by-elections on the 20th could be a litmus paper indicating which political direction the country might be heading.
Britain’s bookies, meanwhile, appear to give a little hope to concerned Tory members, with the average odds being:
Uxbridge and South Ruislip
- Labour: 4/6
- Conservative: 11/4
- Liberal Democrats: 10/1
Selby and Ainsty
- Conservative: 1/2
- Labour: 11/4
- Liberal Democrats: 10/1
Somerton and Frome
- Liberal Democrats: 2/1
- Labour: 11/4
- Conservative: 7/2