When were the most recent by-elections held?
By-elections were held in Wellingborough and in Kingswood on 15 February 2024. These followed the recall of Peter Bone and the resignation of Chris Skidmore, who were both elected as Conservative MPs. Bone was recalled after bullying and sexually harassing a staff member. Skidmore – a former energy minister – resigned in opposition to the government’s Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, having previously announced that he was standing down from parliament at the next election. Both seats were won by the Labour Party on large swings, overturning Conservative majorities of more than 18,000 and 11,000 votes respectively.
A by-election was also held in Rochdale on 29 February 2024 following the death of sitting Labour MP Tony Lloyd. Labour withdrew support for its candidate, Azhar Ali, shortly after nominations closed over comments he allegedly made about Israel and Jewish people.
Morton B and Francis S, ‘Labour withdraws support for Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali over Israel comments’, BBC News, 13 February, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-68280098
The seat was won by George Galloway, a former Labour, independent and Respect Party MP, now standing for the Workers Party of Britain. Rochdale is the fourth parliamentary constituency Galloway has represented (and the eighth he has contested).
What happened in the previous set of by-elections?
Three by-elections were held in the autumn of 2023.
A by-election took place in Rutherglen and Hamilton West on 5 October 2023. The previous SNP MP, Margaret Ferrier, was recalled by her constituents after being suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for breaking the Covid lockdown laws. Labour took the seat on a 20-point swing, overturning a previous SNP majority of more than 5,000 votes.
Two further by-elections took place on 19 October 2023 for the seats of Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth. These followed the resignations of Conservative MPs Nadine Dorries and Chris Pincher respectively. Dorries resigned from the Commons on 29 August 2023, having announced she was standing down ‘with immediate effect’ 11 weeks earlier. Pincher resigned in September after failing to get his suspension from the House of Commons for sexual misconduct overturned at appeal. Both seats were won by Labour, overturning large Conservative majorities.
Have other by-elections been held since the 2019 general election?
Yes. There have been 16 other by-elections held in the current parliament.
Four were triggered by the death of a sitting MP, including in Southend West following the murder of David Amess. Four more resulted from MPs resigning to take up other positions, including SNP MP Neil Gray, who resigned in 2021 to stand as an MSP in the elections for the Scottish parliament, and Labour MP Rosie Cooper, who resigned to become chair of an NHS trust. A further two followed the fallout from the publication of the Privileges Committee report into Boris Johnson: one in Johnson’s own constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and the other in Selby and Ainsty following the resignation of Johnson ally, Nigel Adams. These were held on the same day.
The remaining six were all triggered by resignations following misconduct:
- Hartlepool, May 2021 – after Labour MP Mike Hill resigned following a finding of sexual misconduct towards a parliamentary staffer.
- North Shropshire, December 2021 – following Conservative MP Owen Paterson’s resignation after being found to have breached paid advocacy rules.
- Wakefield, June 2022 – after Imran Ahmad Khan (elected in 2019 as a Conservative MP, but sitting as an independent from 2021) resigned after being convicted of sexually assaulting a minor.
- Tiverton and Honiton, June 2022 – after Conservative MP Neil Parish resigned after admitting to watching pornography in the Commons chamber
- City of Chester, December 2022 – after Labour MP Chris Matheson resigned following a finding of sexual misconduct.
- Somerton and Frome, July 2023 – after David Warburton (re-elected in 2019 as a Conservative MP but sitting as an independent from 2022) resigned following a finding of sexual misconduct.
Is it unusual to have so many by-elections?
The 2019 parliament has seen more by-elections than other recent parliaments: 22 by-elections have been held in the last three years. By comparison, there were just five between the 2017 and 2019 general elections.
While this is not an unusually large number by any historical standard – 30 by-elections were held between the October 1974 and 1979 general elections – it is unusual for so many to result from resignations for misconduct. Only two by-elections in that 1974–79 parliament resulted from misconduct, with some 17 resulting from the death of the incumbent MP.
What happened in the summer 2023 by-elections?
The previous set of by-elections were held on 20 July 2023 in Selby and Ainsty (former MP: Nigel Adams), Somerton and Frome (former MP: David Warburton) and Uxbridge and South Ruislip (former MP: Boris Johnson).
The three main UK parties each won one seat at these elections:
- The Conservative Party narrowly retained Uxbridge and South Ruislip with a reduced majority of 495 votes, exceeding expectations.
- The Labour Party won in Selby and Ainsty, overturning a previous Conservative majority of over 20,000 votes – the largest majority ever overturned by the party at a by-election. undefined HuffPost, Labour Pull Off Historic Victory In Selby And Ainsty By-Election, 21 July 2023, retrieved 21 September 2023, www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/labour-pull-off-historic-victory-in-selby-and-ainsty-by-election_uk_64b94450e4b09a3b48915ec8
- The Liberal Democrats took Somerton and Frome with a new majority of over 11,000 votes.