Labour turf war with Lib Dems over Mid Beds by-election escalates

Labour turf war with Lib Dems over Mid Beds by-election escalates as polling guru says the spat could save the Tories even if vote ‘collapses’

The turf war between Labour and the Lib Dems over the Mid Beds by-election could save the Tories, according to a polling guru.

Professor Sir John Curtice said the squabbling between the opposition parties could see the Conservatives cling on even if their vote ‘collapses’.

Unlike other recent by-elections, neither Labour nor the Lib Dems are willing to step aside to give the other a clear run at the contest – triggered by the resignation of former culture secretary Nadine Dorries. 

Ed Davey’s party has reportedly been circulating material criticising Labour’s choice of candidate and insisting there is a ‘ceiling’ to its support. 

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey eating cake with by-election candidate Emma Holland-Lindsay on a visit to Mid Beds yesterday

Keir Starmer’s allies have been talking up Labour’s chances of victory in Mid Beds. He is pictured visiting the seat last month

Sir John told PoliticsHome that splitting the anti-Tory vote could be decisive in what has traditionally been an ultra true-blue constituency.

‘If there is any by-election where the Tories can hold on to the seat amid difficult circumstances, it’s probably Mid Bedfordshire, because both parties (Labour and the Lib Dems) are determined to fight the seat,’ he said.

‘The Tory vote could collapse but they could still hang on to it. So, perhaps the thing we should be looking at is not who wins, but by how much the Tory vote goes down.’

Tory gloom about their prospects in Mid Beds has been heightened by polls consistently showing Labour with a double-digit lead nationally.  

The by-election is expected to happen in October, as the ‘writ’ can only be moved when Parliament returns on September 4. The contest then happens between 21 and 27 working days later. 

Ms Dorries formally resigned yesterday, having penned a damning letter over the weekend demanding Mr Sunak returns to vote-winning Conservative policies.

She predicted he would lead the party to defeat at the next general election – and refused to say whether she would vote Tory herself.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice said Rishi Sunak (pictured) could have a lifeline in the by-election if Labour and the Lib Dems split the anti-Tory vote

Tory gloom about their prospects of holding on in what is typically an ultra-safe constituency have been heightened by polls consistently showing Labour with a double-digit lead nationally

Downing Street has maintained a careful silence on Ms Dorries’ critique as the PM desperately tries not to fuel infighting.

Speaking on a visit to a new-build housing estate near Norwich yesterday, Mr Sunak told broadcasters: ‘I’m grateful to Nadine for her service both as an MP and a minister.

‘We are looking forward, and delighted to support our fantastic candidate in Mid Beds, Festus Akinbusoye, who is the local candidate, the only local candidate in this election; also the local police and crime commissioner.’

Held by the Tories for almost a century, Mid Beds has become a safe seat under Ms Dorries, with her majority increasing from 11,355 in 2005 to 24,664 in 2019. 

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