AUTHOR: William Kedjanyi

STAR POLITICS: Kingswood & Wellingborough By-Elections

Whilst we don’t know the date of the next General Election, it’s fair to say the campaign is already well underway!

There are three by-elections this month, all of which have already made national headlines (yes, more on the Rochdale mess later – watch this space) and our Political Betting Analyst William Kedjanyi is in Bristol to cover Kingswood’s by-election, whilst keeping one eye on developments further afield in Wellingborough.

Just scroll below for the latest from Bristol, Northampton and Rochdale ahead of polling day tomorrow!

🗳️ 9.05am

💻 Something I’m often guilty of is obsessing over what’s happening on Twitter (yes, I am always there! I’m still there!) but it’s important to remember that for these issues to break into the country is one thing, but for them to change voters minds is quite another.

🌹 The lead up to these elections had not been a good week politically for Labour – the suspension of one candidate, the disowning of another and then an embarrassing mess over their environmental policy – but they comfortably overturned majorities of over 10,000 with little fuss. Some in the party have described their poll lead as their biggest strength and weakness at the same time, but there’s no doubt what the evidence says – they’re still well ahead.

🔵 That the Tories are in huge trouble has been known since Johnson left (don’t forget that they were behind in the polls, although not like this, when he got booted out of Number 10) but these are the latest results that show the depth of their fall. The beginning of a recession is another hammer blow to a party which is already past the point of no return (no government has ever recovered from a polling disadvantage this great) and the likelihood of a later election may well have increased after tonight’s results.

🔵 The Reform vote is ‘real’ – they matched their national polling in both contests, albeit in leave seats with high profile candidates and a collapse in the Tory vote. Whilst they are likely to take Tory votes in the future, it should be remembered that not all of their votes come from the Tories and also that the Brexit Party did perform better in Peterborough’s 2019 by-election. That said, in the most Leave voting seats, they will harbour ambitions of getting close to taking a seat at the next GE.

🟢 The Greens didn’t get much coverage in the lead upto Kingswood but an eye-catching showing of nearly 6% confirms that Bristol is fertile ground for them. With the environment an increasingly important voter concern, don’t be surprised if they have a strong performance at the local elections coming up, or in the seats around Bristol.

🗳️ 8.00am

Good morning! Here are your results from Kingswood and Wellingborough:

Wellingborough result:
LAB: 45.9% (+19.5)
CON: 24.6% (-37.6)
REF: 13.0% (+13.0)
LDEM: 4.7% (-3.1)
IND: 3.7% (+3.7)
GRN: 3.4% (-0.1)

Labour have achieved their biggest swing since 1994 in a by-election, cementing market confidence that they’re on for a large majority at the next General Election. Labour’s candidate Gen Kitchen, won with 13,844 votes, beating the Conservatives’ Helen Harrison (7,408 votes) in the largest swing from the Tories to Labour since 1994 and second-largest since the second world war. Reform UK achieved its best result in an election so far, winning 13% of the vote.

Kingswood result:
LAB: 44.9% (+11.5)
CON: 34.9% (-21.3)
REF: 10.4% (+10.4)
GRN: 5.8% (+3.4)
LDEM: 3.5% (-3.5)
UKIP: 0.5% (+0.5)

Another comfortable win for Labour, who were less dominant than in Wellingborough but still ran out easy winners, returning Damian Egan as the new MP. Reform (Rupert Lowe) matched their national polling in third although they were well behind the Conservatives in third, who ran a candidate (Sam Bromiley) that was not going to stand at the next General Election (Kingswood will not be a seat, but there will be four other options he could have taken).

🗳️ 10.00pm

The polls are closed! You will obviously be wondering about the results – they should be between 2am and 5am.

🗳️ 7.20pm

Wellingborough’s dynamics are interesting. It ranks 93rd for ‘Social Conservative’ and 156th for ‘Economic Right.’ It was held by New Labour at it’s peak but since 2010 they’ve had a huge fall. That said, the Tories have almost never polled worse nationally and they have the threat of Reform too. Reform have repeatedly hit double digits in a lot of national polls – and with Ben Habib – perhaps their highest profit candidate – they should have a fine chance of getting to 15% here.

🗳️ 6.00pm

After a long train journey – so apologies for the lack of updates – here’s a bit of background on Kingswood, where we were yesterday:

It voted to leave by a 58-42% margin in 2016. According to Electoral Calculus, Kingswood ranks #228 for “Leave”, #201 for “Economic Right Position”, #178 for “National Position” and #262 for “Social Conservative Position” out of 650 seats.

The proportion of constituents who are ABC1 (upper middle class, for those of you who weren’t obsessive media studies nerds) is 60% as well.

In 2019 Chris Skidmore had an 11,220 majority (a 54.6% share of the vote) from a 17.5% turnout – it’s fair to say we can expect much less in both those categories now.

🗳️ 3.45pm

🗳️ 2.45pm 

Taking a step away from today’s by-elections for a moment to look at a seat which will be familiar to many of you… Holborn and St Pancras!

That is of course the constituency of Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer, widely expected to be the next Prime Minister, with Labour having a double-digit poll lead. However the Labour leader has got his critics, namely Andrew Feinstein, who has been elected to stand as a unity left-wing candidate against Starmer – click here for more details.

Can he do the impossible? Star have gone 12/1 about Starmer losing his seat at the next General Election – click below for the prices!


🗳️ 12.50pm 

Following on from that poll, we are seeing more support for the Conservatives to spring an upset. Here’s Star’s John Brackenridge: “So further movement overnight on back of the polling report seen Tories hitting as short as 4/1, and they’re now settled at 9/2. The match bet with Reform now 1/12 also as a result.”

The latest odds in Wellingborough:

Labour: 1/8
Tories: 9/2
Reform: 18/1
Liberal Democrats: 100/1
Greens: 500/1
Andre Pyne-Bailey (Independent): 1000/1
Ankit Love Jay Mala (Independent): 1000/1
Britain First: 1000/1
Kev Watts (Independent): 1000/1
Marion Turner-Hawes (Independent): 1000/1
Monster Raving Loony Party: 1000/1

🗳️ 12.10pm 

Good afternoon to you and happy Polling Day! Polls have opened in the Wellingborough and Kingswood byelections, with the Conservatives predicted to lose majorities of majorities of more than 18,000 in Wellingborough and 11,000 in Kingswood in South Gloucestershire.

Labour – who have won four Tory seats in a row since July – are considered racing certainties to win Kingswood (1/50 with but in Wellingborough the betting contest is beginning to heat up, with support for the Tories overnight after a poll conducted by Kevin Cunningham and Ian Warren had the Conservatives edging a tight race, whilst also showing their voters as having more enthusiasm than Labour’s. Here’s an excerpt:

“What was notable and perhaps surprising in the poll results was the difference between Labour and Conservative party supporters in terms of their likelihood to vote. Conservative party supporters in this sample had a significantly higher likelihood to vote than Labour Party supporters. This might be a feature specific to this by-election or indeed it might be a general theme worth keeping an eye on for Labour.”

🗳️ 11.15pm

A late night thought here but… take a look at this poll for Wellingborough and the methodology. Commissioned by Kevin Cunningham – formerly of Labour’s targeting and analysis department, and now working at Technological University Dublin – and election specialist Ian Warren, it has a much closer battle than all the market odds would suggest there at least.

Here’s the piece – I dare say it’s worth taking a look at if you’re still up, or should you be reading this on polling day.

🗳️ 10.00pm

By this time tomorrow, the polls will have closed and the counting will be underway, so it’s an appropriate time for some reflections on the day from Bristol and also elsewhere.

The people of Kingswood – those that we spoke to – were lovely, but there was a quietness about this by-election compared to others. In Tiverton and Uxbridge the vote was the talk of the town and the GOTV operation was evident without looking. On the journey up we spotted two canvassers – and we nearly jumped out of the car to grab them – but bar that and a bunch of canvassers for Damien Egan (having based ourselves outside of his office) there was barely a rosette or pair to be seen.

The lack of enthusiasm about the election was palpable. Limp Valentines’ Day jokes in the local were about the height of the political engagement we got outside of the betting shop of all places (although our first driver of the day, Mohammed, was a star and incredibly eloquent) and one didn’t get the sense of much enthusiasm for anyone here from face to face conversations, although being in the town centre mostly it’s easy to miss getting the general view. Maybe next time we’ll go for basing ourselves in the caffe.

Ranjan Balakumran, producer/editor: The people of Kingswood were lovely & they are not in any way enthused by this by-election. Yes, the Labour Party will walk it, but only because the Conservatives won’t even turn up. When we stopped by the Labour party HQ it was clear that people have come to Kingswood from all over the country to support Labour. A lot of money is being pumped into this by-election. But it’s hardly a fair fight, as the conservatives are not even campaigning. I can understand why Star Sports are offering bets on the percentage of Labour victory, because the victory itself is a foregone conclusion.

🗳️ 9.10pm

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been a day where polling has moved the national discourse. I put in the Savanta poll that had a reduced Labour lead, and it’s only fair – in the interests of balance – to put down the results of the Electoral Calculus MRP, as seen on the Mirror website.

See if you can spot anything notable…

🗳️ 8.00pm

There’s been talk of Kingswood and Wellingborough but what of Rochdale? Well, look no further…

🗳️ 5.20pm

If you’ve been reading so far – and thanks of course if you’ve joined us – you’ll notice that Reform have received a lot of national coverage over the past few months. We’ve done some work here on why they might do well in Kingswood (see 3.45pm update) but for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into their success, Sam Freedman’s Substack is an excellent read:

🗳️ 4.50pm

Where’s the money going? Star trader John Brackenridge gives us an update on the by-election picture, with punters looking to spring a surprise in Wellingborough.

‘Money for the Tories, who are now 8s from as big as 12s earlier today. We’ve eased Labour to 1/16 (from 1/33) and Reform to 18s (16s). This has also meant the Tories have firmed up in the match bet with Reform and are now 1/5 v 3/1 (from 1/3 v 2/1 yesterday).

Kingswood: ““We are now 1/10 on the Tories to beat Reform in the 2-way match bet as a result of the 1/5 being pressed. We have eased Reform in the ‘Most Seats’ market also, now 33/1 from 18/1. Labour looking a sure thing now 1/50 to win the By-election.”

General Election: “We have looked to lay a bit of the Tories and have recently been laying 3-figure bets at around 7/1 for most seats and 16/1 for a Tory majority which we’re happy to do so given the task at hand for Rishi Sunak. We’re currently 13/2 for the Tories to win most seats and 14/1 for a majority which is the industry top price for both.

In 2022 we laid a six figure bet on Labour to win the most seats, so as you can imagine that’ll be a blow but there’s a long way to go.”

🗳️ 4.15pm

After a few sessions of filming, it’s time to check in on the other contests and the national picture.

In Wellingborough – another expected Labour gain – the picture is one of busy get-out-the-vote operations (in fairly stark contrast to Kingswood, it must be said, for all that there’s been a stream of activity outside Damien Egan’s headquarters.)

Many of the national press have headed up to Northampton where vox pops haven’t been in short supply but there’s been a quiet absence of Conservative politicians. The FT’s Lucy Fisher is on the ground and writes:

“Only a clutch of Conservative front- or backbenchers have appeared on the campaign trail, and even fewer have advertised their presence on social media. The Conservatives’ “air war” has also been quieter: the party’s candidate Helen Harrison last posted on X on January 11, and national media requests to interview her have been rejected.”

Much like in Kingswood, Reform have made plenty of noise and they’re hoping that plenty of resources, noise and the blue battle bus will propel them to a good result. They’re 3/1 with Star Sports to upset the Tories, whose candidate Helen Harrison (partner of Peter Bone, forced out by recall petition) has told ITV News Anglia that “when I’m out on the doorstep with Peter … we get a really warm reception.”

Earlier on (see 3.15pm video) we discussed the average Labour swings in recent by-elections whilst looking at their winning margin market. Interested punters will note that the Press Association has put an exact figure on the swing needed for Labour to take both; 11.4% in Kingswood, and 17.7% in Wellingborough. The party has been beating both comfortably in recent elections – they have an average swing of 16% in recent contests but have surpassed that on more than one occasion – and are very much expected to take both seats comfortably.

🗳️ 3.45pm

🗳️ 3.15pm 

🗳️ 1.25pm 

We have lift-off! Where else to start but of course, the Star Sports Shop in Kingswood itself whilst checking the latest prices and political news. Much of the talk has been about national issues – namely Labour’s strife with the suspension of Azhar Ali and Graham Jones, and a rare poll (Savanta UK) which sees them losing ground – although that itself still has them with a fourteen-point lead, so do treat it with caution.

I’m in Kingswood today – here’s a lowdown on the candidates, all vying to replace Chris Skidmore, who was the MP here and a leading Tory voice on green issues before he resigned over Rishi Sunak’s bill allowing new oil and gas licences to be issued.

Sam Bromiley is the defending candidate for the Conservatives, who finds himself in the strange position of aiming to do the job for a “few months”, having told the Telegraph that he would “absolutely not” stand at the next election. Labour have selected Damien Egan in a seat which has swung between the Tories and Labour over the last century, and one which they are now just 1/50 to take with Star Sports. The Green party came fourth in Kingswood in 2019 but since then they’ve made big progress in the city, becoming the largest group on Bristol city council, and Lorraine Francis will hope to make an impact for them. Andrew Brown is standing for the Liberal Democrats in a rare by-election where less is expected of them than usual. And there’s sure to be much attention on Reform UK’s Rupert Lowe, who’s standing for Richard Tice’s party.

Stay tuned for more…



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