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Rishi’s reckoning: Labour ahead in Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge seat and in Tory stronghold, says poll

Rishi Sunak is facing the threat of a by-elections nightmare as an exclusive poll put Labour eight points ahead of the Tories in the most high-profile of six looming contests - in Boris Johnson’s ex-constituency in London.

Labour’s Danny Beales is on 41 per cent in Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Conservative Steve Tuckwell 33 per cent, according to the survey by JL Partners.

Another of its polls put Labour 12 points ahead in Selby and Ainsty, in North Yorkshire, darkening the political clouds hanging ominously over the Prime Minister.

Cost-of-living issues, including food prices and energy bills, are top of the list of concerns in Uxbridge, with 59 per cent of adults citing this as one of their three most important issues in deciding their vote.

Twenty-nine per cent named rising mortgage or rent costs, a finding which comes amid worries that the Bank of England could hike interest rates from five per cent to more than six per cent.

While four out of ten highlighted opposition to the expansion of Ulez (the ultra low emission zone) to outer London.

“As things stand, Labour are set to win Uxbridge,” said James Johnson, of JL Partners, while stressing that “it is not inconceivable that the Conservatives could narrow the gap in the coming days”.

Matthew McGregor, chief executive of campaign group 38 Degrees which commissioned the poll, said: “In any by-election, you’d expect local issues to feature - in this case it’s the debate around Ulez.

“But this poll shows that it’s the issues that affect all of us, every day, at the supermarket counters, in GP waiting rooms, and when we come to pay our rent, mortgage or energy bills that are likely to determine this election.”

Mr Sunak also faces the Tories losing Somerton and Frome, Somerset, to the Liberal Democrats and now appears to be in a fight against Labour to hold onto Selby and Ainsty, with both these by-elections taking place along with Uxbridge on July 20.

Losing Uxbridge, which Labour has not won since England lifted the World Cup in 1966, would be a major setback, especially as the Tories held it at two previous by-elections in 1972 and even at the height of New Labour in 1997.

The Prime Minister is also threatened by two more possible electoral blows later this year, in Mid Bedfordshire once ex-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries follows through on her announcement that she is quitting, and in Tamworth where “groping” ex-Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher could be forced to resign as the MP.

The sixth by-election is a battle between Labour and the SNP in Rutherglen and Hamilton West where Covid rule breaker Margaret Ferrier, now an independent MP, may be forced to quit.

With his party trailing Labour by some 20 points nationally and the partygate scandal refusing to die down, the Prime Minister is also having to deal with unrest among his MPs, with various groups trying to influence key policy decisions.

Most recently, 25 Right-wing Tory MPs from the 2017 and 2019 intake, including deputy chairman Lee Anderson, called for ministers to close a temporary visa scheme for overseas care workers under the shortage occupation list, a request swiftly rejected by Health Secretry Steve Barclay.

Several of Mr Sunak’s five key pledges are looking increasingly difficult to meet including on halving inflation and tackling the “small boats” Channel crossings.

A quarter of Uxbridge residents have immigration as in the top three issues which could sway their vote, significantly less than the 43 per cent who cited NHS waiting times, and the 43 per cent for crime and policing, with controversy over the future of the local police station.

Twenty-two per cent highlighted tax rates and just eight per cent mentioned partygate and Mr Johnson’s conduct.

Labour was also ahead (in percentages) of the Tories in Uxbridge on which party would do a better job handling cost-of-living issues such as food and energy prices by 34/19, rising mortgage or rents 32/19, NHS waiting times 33/18, tax rates 28/21 and the environment 23/14, but the reverse for opposition to Ulez, 33/14.

Thirty-one per cent believe Sir Keir Starmer’s party will move Britain in the right direction, compared to 19 per cent for Mr Sunak’s Tories, with a similar split on being “competent and capable”, 29/18, on addressing issues “that concern you”, 32/19, on “sharing your values” 29/20, “standing up for people like me”, 33/19, and best for rebuilding after Covid, 26/20.

But the Conservatives are ahead as best on local issues, 25/21 and they are level-pegging on “cares about Uxbridge”, both on 23 per cent.

The Tories are seen as more divided, 39/20, for being out of touch 40/26 and for “standing up for the richest” 58/8.

The survey also found half of adults in Uxbridge have cut back on essentials or the “fun things that make life enjoyable”, nearly a third of people are worried about their ability to pay their mortgage or rent in the coming months, 43 per cent of local residents, or someone close to them, are currently waiting for an NHS appointment, and 36 per cent are affected by the Ulez extension to Uxbridge and South Ruislip “as you or your family have a car or other vehicle which is non-compliant”.

* JL Partners interviewed 500 adults online in Uxbridge and South Ruislip between June 26 and July 4. Data were weighted to be representative of the constituency.

THE FIVE KEY TESTS

Selby and Ainsty

North Yorkshire seat previously represented by Tory Nigel Adams, a key ally of Boris Johnson who resigned less than 24 hours after the ex PM quit. Mr Adams had been nominated by Mr Johnson for a peerage but was missed off the final honours list.

He held a majority of over 20,000 and the vote is expected to be the tightest of the by-elections facing Rishi Sunak. It is expected to be between Tory Claire Holmes and Labour’s Keir Mather.

Nigel Adams (PA)
Nigel Adams (PA)

Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Vacated when Boris Johnson quit last month after the partygate report concluded he had deliberately misled Parliament. The Tories hold a majority of 7,210. Labour’s Danny Beales, a Camden councillor, is favourite to beat Conservative Steve Tuckwell, a Hillingdon councillor.

Sixteen candidates have declared they are running, including the Anti-Ulez party’s Kingsley Hamilton, Reclaim’s Laurence Fox and Count Binface.

Boris Johnson (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson (PA Wire)

Mid Bedfordshire

Key target for the Lib Dems, despite the Tories having a majority of almost 25,000. Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries announced she was resigning amid speculation that she had been blocked from a peerage in the honours’ list.

However, she has yet to do so formally to trigger a by-election. This has not stopped parties launching election campaigns. Labour came second in 2019 but the Lib Dems are hopeful they can win.

Nadine Dorries (PA Archive)
Nadine Dorries (PA Archive)

Somerton and Frome

Vacated by David Warburton, who won a majority of 19,213 in 2019. He was suspended by Tories in April last year over allegations of drug use and sexual misconduct. He admitted using cocaine, but denies harassing a woman aide.

The Tories have only held the seat since 2015, when Mr Warburton beat the Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem candidate Sarah Dyke, a South Somerset district council councillor, is favourite to beat Conservative Faye Purbrick.

David Warburton (PA Media)
David Warburton (PA Media)

Tamworth

Staffordshire seat held by former Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

He was suspended from the Conservative party in June last year following sexual misconduct allegations and is now facing an eight-week suspension from the Commons and a recall petition, which will likely trigger another by-election.

The seat is a Labour target despite the Conservatives having a majority of 19,634. Pincher won 30,542 votes in 2019.