This Thursday of by-elections (three seats are put back to the vote) looks like a rehearsal for the next British general election, which must take place no later than January 28, 2025. Three seats held by the Conservatives are put back to the vote in three constituencies located in regions that could not be more diverse: the London suburbs, represented since 2015 by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the rich countryside of the South West and a former mining region in the far north of the ‘England. The three major parties have concentrated all their forces to try to win the jackpot.
Predictions unfavorable to the Tories
Despite a very comfortable lead for the two rural seats, where the two resigning MPs won 55% and 60% of the vote respectively in the 2019 general election, the forecasts are particularly unfavorable to the Tories. Facing them, the Liberal Democrats are showing their teeth after a convincing victory last year in another South West campaign constituency with a similar profile. With a lead in the polls of twenty points on average, Labor hopes to win the other two seats. Both count on the current multiple weaknesses of the ruling party.
The British blame him for the disastrous economic situation. Inflation jumped by 18.5% between May 2021 and May 2023. While wages increased at the same time by 13.3% in the private sector and 7.4% in the public sector, they did not been able to prevent a sharp decline in the real wages of the British and therefore in their standard of living. Finally, according to most analysts, led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economy should remain sluggish until 2025.
Loss of confidence and a sluggish economy
More generally, the Conservative Party has lost the confidence of many Britons. Partygate – aperitifs scandal organized during confinement in certain ministries – destroyed his reputation for integrity at the same time as it caused the downfall of Boris Johnson, who lied to the British Parliament, as revealed by the committee of parliamentary inquiry. The current economic difficulties, attributed to Brexit – even if economists reject such a simplification – have in turn destroyed the country’s image of competitiveness.
“Everyone has understood that the Conservatives will lose these three elections,” says Anand Menon, professor of political science at King’s College London. If he loses them, it will confirm that the Prime Minister is politically weakened. But, and more importantly, if the economy does not improve by the general election, if the lack of public investment in poor ridings continues, despite promises made at the time by Boris Johnson, so many will vote against the Conservatives next year. »
Cascading resignations of Tory deputies
Telling sign of the crisis of confidence within the party: out of seventy-one MPs who have already announced their decision not to run for a new term in the general election next year, forty-seven are Conservatives – without count the three resigners whose seats are put into play this Thursday. Many personalities, until recently in government, feature in this list, including former economy and finance minister Sajid Javid, former health minister Matt Hancock and former foreign affairs official then Justice Dominic Raab.
They have in common to have been elected in 2010, only thirteen years ago, with great ambitions. The idea of spending at least one mandate in the opposition, that is to say without the slightest visibility and hope of governing, does not tempt them.