For the birds! Oliver Dowden rejects claims Tories losing power after Bexley by-election

Oliver Dowden rejects claims Tories losing power by-election

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The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hit out at Labour leader Keir Starmer for not bothering to show up at the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election and insisted he is “not worried” about the party. Tory Louie French took more than half the votes in the contest, which was triggered by the death of former Cabinet minister James Brokenshire. He had a 4,478 vote cushion over Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer’s party’s share of the vote increasing from 2019.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dowden said: “This is a good result for a governing party mid-term. As you well know governing parties shouldn’t expect to do well mid-term.

“We actually secured over 50 percent of the vote in Bexley.

“I pay tribute to our excellent candidate and the campaign team there that secured that result.

“This idea that Labour have made some surge ahead is really for the birds.

“They’ve actually got about the same vote share they secured under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.

“Keir Starmer couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to the by-election so I’m really not worried about Labour.”

The Conservatives have since said Mr French’s victory was “almost unheard of” for a sitting Government.

The party secured 52 percent of the vote on a much-reduced turnout at Thursday’s by-election, held following the death of James Brokenshire in October.

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Tory deputy chairman Justin Tomlinson said: “We’re absolutely thrilled. For a Government to get over 50 percent of the vote in a parliamentary by-election is almost unheard of, and with a majority of over 20 percent.

“A fantastic local candidate, positive campaign, focused on the tangible difference we’re making to people’s lives, having navigated the unprecedented challenges of Covid.”

The winning candidate, a local councillor who wore Mr Brokenshire’s rosette on election night as a mark of respect for his predecessor, said the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup had sent “a clear message: they want an MP who will work with the Government to deliver on their priorities”.

He added: “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.”

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Mr Tomlinson also said it was “an absolute disaster” for Labour, adding: “Their deal that they’ve done with the Liberal Democrats to concentrate on this one and the Liberal Democrats to concentrate on Shropshire has massively backfired for the Labour Party. It’s yet another disastrous parliamentary by-election for them.”

But the Labour Party sounded an upbeat note despite their loss, pointing to a 10% swing from the Conservatives to Labour and their 30.8% share of the vote – the party’s highest share in the seat for 20 years.

Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge, said: “We’re pleased with the result tonight.

“This is a Conservative stronghold, somewhere that had a 19,000 majority at the last general election and what we’ve seen tonight is that majority being slashed. There’s been a 10% swing over to Labour this evening.”

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