The Conservatives have suffered a double defeat in by-elections overnight as Labour overturned two huge majorities to seize Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire.

Sir Keir Starmer claimed Labour was “redrawing the political map” by taking comfortably Conservative seats 12 months ahead of an expected general election.

In Tamworth, Labour candidate Sarah Edwards defeated Tory Andrew Cooper by a majority of 1,316, overturning a 19,634 majority. 

The result, announced shortly at 2.45am, was the second-highest ever by-election swing to Labour at 23.9 per cent.

Just half-an-hour later, there was even better news for the party as Mid Bedfordshire saw the largest majority overturned by Labour at a by-election since 1945.

The Tories had held Mid Bedfordshire since 1931, with a 24,664 Conservative majority in 2019.

But Labour's Alistair Strathern took the seat with a majority of 1,192 over his Tory rival Festus Akinbusoye, with a swing of 20.5 percentage points to Labour.

It comes after another recent Scottish Labour by-election victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which saw Michael Shanks sweep the seat from the SNP. 

'Labour is back'

The Herald: Labour campaigners celebrating after the by-election win in Mid BedfordshireLabour campaigners celebrating after the by-election win in Mid Bedfordshire (Image: PA Images/PA Wire)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “These are phenomenal results that show Labour is back in the service of working people and redrawing the political map.

“Winning in these Tory strongholds shows that people overwhelmingly want change and they’re ready to put their faith in our changed Labour Party to deliver it.

“Voters across Mid Bedfordshire, Tamworth and Britain want a Labour government determined to deliver for working people, with a proper plan to rebuild our country.

“To those who have given us their trust, and those considering doing so, Labour will spend every day acting in your interests and focused on your priorities. Labour will give Britain its future back.”

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Mr Strathern said his victory showed “nowhere is off limits for this Labour Party” while Ms Edwards challenged the Prime Minister to call a general election.

She said: “My message to the Prime Minister is get in your government car, drive to Buckingham Palace, do the decent thing and call a general election."

Both contests were triggered by the high-profile departures of their previous MPs.

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries quit – eventually – as Mid Bedfordshire’s MP in anger at being denied a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.

In Tamworth, Chris Pincher resigned after being found to have drunkenly groped two men in an “egregious case of sexual misconduct” at London’s exclusive Carlton Club last year.

The incident eventually sparked Mr Johnson’s exit from No 10 because of his handling of the situation.

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The Conservative party has sought to portray the by-elections as mid-term blips, exacerbated by the difficulties surrounding the previous MPs.

But elections expert John Curtice said the two results were “extremely bad news” for the Conservatives and suggested Mr Sunak was on course for general election defeat.

He said: “This isn’t destiny, but it is a pointer and it is a pointer that, unless the Conservatives can fairly dramatically and fairly radically turn things around, then they are in truth staring defeat in the face in 12 months’ time.”

He warned the Tories risked seeing votes drift to Labour on the left and Reform UK on the right.

Professor Curtice told the BBC: “No government has hitherto lost to the principal opposition party in a by-election a seat as safe as Tamworth.”

He said the Tories “may get caught in a pincer movement between some of their former Leave voters wandering off to Labour but others going off to Reform UK”.

The Tamworth result echoes Labour’s victory in a by-election in its predecessor constituency South East Staffordshire in 1996.

The Conservatives went into that contest defending a large majority, only to see Labour win the seat on a swing of 22.1 percentage points before a general election landslide the following year.

Rishi Sunak was out of the country as the by-election results came in, spending the night in Saudi Arabia on a tour of the Middle East in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks on Israel.

The results were announced a year to the day after Liz Truss resigned as prime minister and leaves Mr Sunak with a headache as he ends his first 12 months in post.