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Reform UK celebrates best-ever by-election result as Wellingborough candidate says the Tories ‘need to go’ | Politics News

Reform UK is celebrating its best-ever by-election result after it snatched 13% of the vote share in the previously safe Tory seat of Wellingborough.

The party, which was first founded in 2018 as the Brexit Party and is now led by Richard Tice, said the result was “remarkable” for a “resurgent party”.

Reform‘s candidate, Ben Habib, came third in the Wellingborough by-election, which Labour won with a majority of 6,436 votes.

Speaking to Sky News after the result came in, Mr Habib said people were “absolutely fed up with the manner in which this country is being governed”.

He pointed to the UK entering a recession, record debt, and record high taxation.

“We need a complete, 180-degree handbrake turn in the manner in which this country is being governed, and I think the people are waking up to that,” he said.

By-election results live: Rishi Sunak claims there’s not a ‘huge amount of enthusiasm’ for Labour wins

The Tories have sought to temper the threat posed by Reform, with Rishi Sunak arguing a vote for the party was “a vote to put Keir Starmer in power”.

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Reform UK’s Ben Habib speaks to Sky’s Jon Craig in Wellingborough

Asked if he was concerned about Reform UK’s results, the prime minister said: “A vote for anyone who isn’t the Conservative candidate, whether that’s Reform or anyone else, is just a vote to put Keir Starmer in power.

“That’s the actual choice at the general election, between me and him, between the Conservatives and Labour.

“Now I believe our plan is working.”

‘Tory party utterly useless’

But Mr Habib hit back at that claim, saying: “The only reason Labour win, if Labour win, is because the Tory party is utterly useless. No one can blame us for Tory failure.”

He added: “The Conservative Party is the problem, and they need to go.

The Wellingborough contest was triggered following the departure of Peter Bone, who had represented the Northamptonshire constituency since 2005 and was re-elected with a majority of 18,540 in 2019.

Mr Bone was removed from his seat last December after an inquiry found he had subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual misconduct, leading to him being suspended from the Commons for six weeks and facing a recall petition which he subsequently lost.

Mr Bone has denied the allegations but his partner, Helen Harrison, was the Tory candidate in the race, polling 7,408 votes.

In the run-up to the Wellingborough by-election, which was also accompanied by a contest in Kingswood, South Gloucestershire, the Conservatives sought to prepare the ground for a double defeat.

Worst post-war Tory performance

The Kingswood and Wellingborough results mean this Conservative government is now the worst -performing Tory administration in by-elections since the Second World War.

After the polls closed the party said it fought “robust campaigns” in both seats – but that winning was “always going to be hard”. They added that the government rarely wins by-elections.

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Labour hails ‘fantastic results’

Speaking after the result was announced, Labour’s candidate Gen Kitchen told Sky News there was “clearly an appetite for change and clearly an appetite for a fresh start”.

Read more:
These by-election results could be consequential and dramatic – here’s why
Kingswood and Wellingborough by-elections: Odds of Rishi Sunak repeating Tory 1997-style loss have now increased

“The people of Wellingborough have spoken for Britain,” she said.

“This is a stunning victory for the Labour Party and must send a message from Northamptonshire to Downing Street.”

Earlier in the night, a Conservative Party source rubbished the idea voters had swapped from the Tories to Labour, arguing their voters stayed at home following the “awful circumstances” of the Wellingborough vote.

Turnout was 38.1% of the eligible electorate – down 26 points from the 2019 general election, with 30,145 votes cast from an electorate of 79,372.

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