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Blackpool’s Electoral Verdict Spells Trouble for Conservatives

Blackpool verdict looks like electoral death sentence (Credits: The Guardian)

Conservatives faced a tough night with the Blackpool South by-election delivering a huge blow. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill midterm setback. It’s a late-game upset coming in the later stages of the parliament’s fifth year.

The swing against them was high, far exceeding the usual midterm norms. This isn’t the first time the Conservatives have lost ground like this; it’s the fifth seat they’ve lost to Labour with such a substantial swing in just a year.

Looking back at post-war parliaments, none have seen the main opposition score more than two such victories. Blackpool South’s outcome is a damning judgment on the Conservative government‘s electoral prospects.

Tories find reasons to be cheerful despite election bloodbath (Credits: The Guardian)

Despite the low turnout, which stood at 32.5%, the vanishing act of Conservative votes is particularly striking. In 2024, fewer people ticked the Tory box than Scott Benton’s slender majority in 2019. Labour’s win wasn’t boosted by Reform UK’s surge, which failed to shake the Conservative hold on second place.

Labour’s Progress: Not Limited to Blackpool but Extending to Redditch and Thurrock

Labour’s success isn’t confined to Blackpool; they’ve made gains in Redditch and Thurrock and are leading in seats where the Conservatives enjoyed substantial leads in 2019.

The surge seems especially pronounced in towns that voted to leave the EU, echoing Blackpool South’s message and building on Labour’s 2023 local election momentum. It’s increasingly likely that the final tally will favor Labour to secure an outright majority in a general election.

However, in places where mayors are established, the story differs. Just as in 2021, local dynamics defied national trends. Despite Conservative setbacks elsewhere, Ben Houchen comfortably retained his seat in Tees Valley.

In regions with new mayors like the East Midlands and North Yorkshire, Labour victories matched polling predictions. The electorate’s willingness to vote along personal lines in these races underscores the rapid acceptance of this new political landscape outside of London.

The local elections also showcased Labour’s challenges. They saw setbacks among Muslim communities, jeopardizing their majority in places like Oldham. Independents, Greens, and minor parties made gains in inner urban areas, threatening Labour’s grip on certain constituencies.

This isn’t just about individual contests; it signals a broader shift in voting patterns, potentially eroding Labour’s traditional support base in the “red wall” seats.

U.K. voters looks set to punish ruling Conservatives (Credits: The Washington Post)

Labour’s woes weren’t confined to specific demographics; they also lost ground in educated, liberal areas like Exeter, where the Greens gained traction. These losses hint at cracks in the Corbyn coalition.

Labour suffered setbacks in councils where they’ve long been in power, blamed for local issues like a bin strike in South Tyneside or the fallout from austerity measures. These fissures could widen if Labour were to take the reins of government.

The results underscore the evolving party system across different tiers of government. In Blackpool South, Labour consolidated the center-left vote, leaving the Lib Dems and Greens in the dust. In local elections, however, the dynamics change, with Lib Dems and Greens holding their own in some areas, dividing the center-left vote.

For the Conservatives, the losses in local government seats may only hint at the potential drubbing they could face in a general election.

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