Labor recaptured Wakefield from the Conservatives in a by-election triggered after a Conservative MP was jailed for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
The new Labor MP, Simon Lightwood, is an NHS communications executive who used to work for the previous Labor MP. Lightwood won with 13,166 votes, a majority of 4,921, and 48% of the votes cast. He was 18 percentage points ahead of the Tories’ Nadeem Ahmed, who came in second with 8,241 votes.
Lightwood spent the short campaign repeatedly telling voters that this was his chance to “get Boris out of Downing Street”. He used his victory speech to address the prime minister and said, “His contempt for this country is no longer tolerated.”
Although it was a terrible night for the Conservatives, who also lost Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats, Johnson still retains a 73-seat Labor majority.
But the Wakefield result has great symbolic value for Labor leader Keir Starmer, showing the party is making progress on the “red wall” seats won by the Conservatives in 2019.
Starmer said it showed that Labor was “back on the side of labour, winning seats where we lost before and ready for government”.
Deeply aware that if Labor did not win back the seat, a leadership challenge would follow, Starmer had ordered the party to throw everything on Wakefield. He visited him three times and ordered his shadow cabinet to do the same.
Campaigners flooded the seat from across the UK, amid reports the party lacked local pollsters after some members of the Wakefield constituency party executive resigned in protest after a popular local councilor failed to make it. to the list of candidates. Although Lightwood made a great show of going to college in Wakefield and buying her first house there, he lives with her husband in Calderdale, on the other side of West Yorkshire, and is originally from South Shields in the northeast. .
David Pickersgill, a Labor councilor in Wakefield, insisted that local members had demonstrated around Lightwood. “Those who resigned from office (not the Party) were still asking people to vote Labour. About 10 people in that group have not campaigned. Another 50 or 60 members (including a number from that Executive) have campaigned and worked very hard for a @UKLabour MP and future Government”, he tweeted Thursday night after the polls close.
In interviews during the campaign, Lightwood spoke about growing up poor. “I know what people are going through in this cost of living crisis. After our childhood home was foreclosed on, I shared a room with my grandmother, aunt, and sister,” she tweeted.
Local councilor Nadeem Ahmed, the Conservative candidate, received considerably less support from Tory party headquarters, which was concerned about defending its majority of 24,000 in by-elections on the same day in Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. Boris Johnson canceled his trip to Wakefield last Friday to visit President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.
An amiable former teacher who claimed to read The Guardian, Ahmed was a group leader of the Wakefield Conservatives until last year when he was expelled in a vote of no confidence.
He got into trouble during the campaign trying to explain to a reporter why he should not be punished for the sins of former MP Imran Ahmad Khan. He said voters should still vote Conservative in Wakefield as “we still trust GPs” after Harold Shipman killed 250 people.
Although often described as a typical “red wall” seat, Wakefield has been a fringe for 20 years. Mary Creagh, elected by Labor in 2005 with a majority of just over 5,000, managed to hold out until 2019 when she was ousted by Khan, who won by 3,358 votes. Creagh, a passionate European who once said she would be “a holdover until I die”, found herself out of step with many voters in a seat that voted 66.4% to leave the EU.
This time, an independent candidate, Akef Akbar, came in third place with 2,090 votes. He was elected as a Conservative councilor in Wakefield last year, but resigned in protest in the whipping system in March. The Yorkshire Party was fourth with 1,182. The Green Party was fifth with 587, Reform UK was sixth with 513 and the Liberal Democrats seventh with 508.