Vote counting underway in two crunch by-elections

By-election results due in early hours

Vote counting underway in two crunch by-elections.

Rishi Sunak facing anxious wait to see if he will suffer further demoralising losses.

Polls closed at 10pm in contests in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire.

Tories held both constituencies at the 2019 general election with large majorities.

Labour hoping to seize the seats and deliver a devastating double blow to the Prime Minister.

Results of both by-elections due to be known in the early hours of this morning.

Labour odds-on to win Tamworth

Labour are currently around 20 points ahead of the Tories in national opinion polls.

The Opposition have sought to downplay their chances of winning the by-election contests and insisted it is a ‘moonshot’ to achieve victory in either or both seats.

A spokesman for Sir Keir this week described them as ‘super safe’ constituencies for the Tories ahead of the by-election contests

‘These are in super safe Tory seats that would require for us to overturn results larger than those which we overturned in Selby,’ the spokesman said.

‘If we were to win Tamworth and had that swing at a general election, it would mean that the Tories will be down to fewer than 60 seats at the next general election’.

‘So a little bit of perspective is required here. Tamworth is a seat where the Tories got 66 per cent of the vote at the last election. Mid Bedfordshire is a similarly safe Tory constituency’.

Lib Dems hoping to spring an upset in Mid Bedfordshire

The best chance for the Lib Dems of springing an upset is likely to be in Mid Bedfordshire, where they began campaigning even before Ms Dorries officially quit.

There are Tory hopes that the Lib Dem challenge in Mid Bedfordshire – where they came second in the 2005 and 2010 general elections – will bleed votes away from Labour and allow the Conservatives to hold the constituency.

But a Tory source said that Labour had sidelined the Lib Dems as the campaign had gone on, and Sir Ed Davey’s party was now targeting blue areas.

By-election contests have been bad-tempered

The by-election contests have been bad-tempered in both seats, with attacks on the Tory candidate in Tamworth for suggesting in an old social media post that families using food banks should ‘f*** off’ if they could afford TVs and phones.

Mr Sunak this week declined to condemn an apparent suggestion by Andrew Cooper that out-of-work parents who cannot afford to feed their children should ‘f*** off’.

The Tory leader was asked during Prime Minister’s Questions about a photo of a flowchart shared by Mr Cooper on Facebook.

The diagram suggested that those who are out of work, pay for ‘TV Sky/BT/etc’, or ‘have a phone contract + £30’ should ‘f*** off’ rather than seek help.

In reply to the question, the PM said only that he was ‘proud of our record supporting people with the cost of living’, before outlining Government policies aimed at supporting people through the crisis.

Mr Cooper told Channel 5 News he was ‘sorry if I’ve offended somebody’ after the post was publicised.

Asked if regretted sharing the image, he said: ‘Obviously it is not something I would share now in today’s world’.

‘We obviously mature and have different opinions than we do three years ago’.

He added: ‘Of course I’m sorry if I’ve offended somebody. But it is very hard in today’s world to have an opinion and not to offend somebody’.

Labour’s campaign in Tamworth was boosted on Thursday by a last-minute endorsement from TV’s Ross Kemp.

‘It’s gonna be close,’ the former EastEnders actor told voters in a social media video. ‘But you have the opportunity to vote for a difference in your constituency today. So please vote for Sarah Edwards’.

In Mid Bedfordshire, Labour last month threatened legal action against the Lib Dems as the two parties clashed over claims made on campaign leaflets.

Labour’s candidate in Mid Bedfordshire, Alistair Strathern, previously made headlines after he was unmasked as an eco-activist who posed as a zombie during a Greenpeace protest outside the Home Office in November last year.

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