Labour’s Simon Lightwood wins Wakefield by-election – increasing pressure on Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson may be thousands of miles away in Kigali, Rwanda, but his premiership will no doubt come under severe pressure as Labor shows signs he will rebuild his so-called Red Wall.

Keir Starmer has pushed Labor to win back his Red Wall seat of Wakefield – and passed a major test of his leadership.

NHS worker and Wakefield resident Simon Lightwood won the by-election by 13,166 votes, stealing the seatback from the Conservatives.

This difficult by-election was prompted by the resignation of Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan, who left the party after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

Boris Johnson’s defeat at Wakefield was announced just before 4am on Friday.

Ultimately, this by-election was viewed as one of two tests of his recent performances, with the Tiverton & Honiton by-election being the other test.

Simon Lightwood, Labor’s new MP for Wakefield, told the Mirror he was dying to give Wakefield a vote.

“People just really want someone to help them and someone to give them a voice again, they haven’t had anyone represent that area in over a year and they want something to advocate for them.

“And that’s what I intend to do,” he told The Mirror last week.

Labor Party candidate Simon Lightwood arrives at the by-election count in Wakefield



Labor needed a 3.8 percentage point increase in the vote to topple the Tories’ majority of 3,358.

A Labor victory by a momentum of 11 percentage points or more would provide a government with Mr Starmer in 10th place in a general election.

Wakefield was one of the so-called Red Wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election, having been Labor since the 1930s.

Turnout in the Wakefield by-election was 39.09%, Wakefield Council said, with 27,205 verified votes cast by a total of 69,601 voters.

The turnout in the 2019 general election was 64.15%.

Boris Johnson last night said it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats and claimed he was “very hopeful” about the results.

But with results looking bleak for the Tories in Tiverton & Honiton and the Tories having lost Wakefield, Mr Johnson’s Premiership will come under enormous pressure; even while he is in Kigali, Rwanda.

Boris Johnson delivers a speech at an economic forum during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on Thursday



Labor leader Mr Starmer had said a victory for candidate Simon Lightwood in the northern constituency “could be the birthplace of the next Labor government”.

Labor Party insiders had told the Mirror at the Wakefield count that Mr Starmer had no expectations of the campaign team other than winning back the seat.

Last week, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told the Mirror if Labor Wakefield won it would be a “huge step” to show the party can rebuild its so-called Red Wall.

Simon Lightwood campaigned with the Daily Mirror last week


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

But Mr Burnham noted there was still work to be done within the party to prove to Northern voters that the party was not still so ‘London-centric’.

Before the votes were counted, Shabana Mahmood, Labor’s national campaign coordinator, said: “Labour campaigned positively in both by-elections with fantastic candidates – but we know many Tory voters have to switch to Labor to take the seats, which is more difficult is in by-elections, where low turnout is the order of the day.

“Wakefield has been a marginal constituency since Labor last won a general election and the Conservatives have held the largest majority seat since 2010 – making this a difficult task.”

This is a groundbreaking story. It will be updated.

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