Voters STILL don’t like you, Keir Starmer is told: After victory for beleaguered Labour, poll experts say there is ‘no enthusiasm’ for the party
Labour is not on track to win an outright majority at the next election after the party’s underwhelming victory in Wakefield, Sir Keir Starmer was warned last night.
A polling expert said yesterday’s win in West Yorkshire masked a lack of ‘enthusiasm’ for the party nationwide.
The party regained the traditionally Labour seat with a swing of more than 12 per cent to achieve its first by-election gain since Corby in Northamptonshire in 2012.
Labour leader Sir Keir claimed the result put Britain ‘on track for a Labour government’.
But Sir Keir barely outperformed the by-election swings achieved by his two predecessors, Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband, both of whom were soundly beaten in subsequent general elections.
Pollster Sir John Curtice said voters hadn’t yet ‘bought into’ Labour’s vision, despite the Conservative Party’s political struggles amid the cost of living squeeze.
Labour is not on track to win an outright majority at the next election after the party’s underwhelming victory in Wakefield, Sir Keir Starmer was warned last night
Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The Wakefield result does not suggest any great enthusiasm for the Labour Party.
‘The Conservative vote is more than twice as big as the rise in the Labour vote, and it looks as if quite a lot of voters in Wakefield who were unhappy with the Conservatives took the opportunity to vote for an independent candidate, who was a Tory councillor who resigned in March in part over Partygate.
‘He got over 7 per cent of the vote, and a lot of that probably came from the Conservatives.
‘There still seems to be a question about the extent to which voters, many of whom are clearly unhappy with the Conservatives, have bought into Labour as an alternative.’
Sir Keir insisted the Wakefield result indicated a ‘historic’ by-election for his party, adding: ‘This puts us now absolutely on track for a Labour government, which is absolutely coming.
‘That tells you that the next government is going to be a Labour government, and the sooner the better – because the country voted yesterday in both by-elections, no confidence in this out-of-touch, out-of-ideas Government.’
Paul Stoner, 60, gives Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer a lemon during a visit to meet new Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood
But election analyst Professor Michael Thrasher told Sky News that the results suggested Britain was ‘heading towards a hung parliament’ at the next election, with Labour and the Lib Dems governing together.
A lemon for a lemon: Greengrocer’s fruity jibe at ‘idiot’ Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer’s dream of becoming prime minister may never bear fruit.
And greengrocer Paul Stoner will be delighted if it doesn’t. He branded the Labour leader a ‘lemon’ after the party’s victory in the Wakefield by-election yesterday.
Sir Keir was visiting the constituency market town of Ossett when Mr Stoner offered him an apple. The 60-year-old then gave Sir Keir a lemon to suggest he was ‘a bit of a joke’.
‘If you call someone a lemon you think they are a bit of an idiot, a bit sour,’ the trader told The Daily Telegraph.
‘He didn’t even realise it wasn’t an apple. He just looked confused and said “thank you”.’
Former health secretary Matt Hancock told Times Radio the results showed ‘there is no possibility of a Labour outright majority at the next election’ and there was ‘clearly no enthusiasm for Keir Starmer’.
Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, said: ‘Labour did well but should arguably have done better. After 12 years of Conservative rule, a cost of living crisis and Partygate, Labour managed just over a 12-point swing.
‘This is broadly comparable to the swings Labour achieved at by-elections in the 2010-2015 Parliament, shortly before David Cameron’s majority at the next general election in 2015.’
The results of the Wakefield by-election appear to indicate that many voters went away from the Tory party, rather than towards Labour.
Simon Lightwood, the new MP for Wakefield, earned 13,166 votes – down almost 5,000 on Labour’s total at the 2019 general election, when the party finished in second place.
The turnout of 39.1 per cent was almost 25 points down on the previous vote, with the Conservative Party losing more than 13,000 voters compared to last time out – 60 per cent of their 2019 vote. Almost half of the Tory vote appeared to go to independent candidate Akef Akbar, who comfortably finished third.
His proportion of the vote, at 7.6 per cent, was just shy of the Labour percentage gain of the vote, at 8.1 per cent. Former Labour MP Thelma Walker said: ‘I’m not comforted by a Labour win of this nature in Wakefield.
‘Labour only secured 13,000 votes – the lowest Labour vote there since 1931, down from 18,000 votes in 2019 and 23,000 in 2017.
‘Non-voters were the clear majority yesterday.’