Sunday, 3 Jul 2022

‘Had a 45% swing!’ Kay Burley rubbishes Campbell’s claim Blair never lost by by-election

Alastair Campbell challenged on Labour's by-election history

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The Sky News presenter was questioning Alastair Campbell on his assessment of Labour’s win in the Red Wall seat of Wakefield in Thursday’s by-election. The Opposition Party secured the seat it had first lost to Boris Johnson in December 2019 with a 12 percent swing. The debate however developped into a swift shutdown after Kay Burley fact-checked Mr Campbell over his recollection of Labour’s by-election performance under Tony Blair.

Ms Burley said: “Easy to gloat to sitting governments very rarely win by-elections.”

The former Labour spin doctor hit back: “That’s not true. That was one of the lies Boris Johnson was running out.

“I think I’m right in saying, when Tony Blair’s first term we didn’t lose a single by-election.

“So yet again his response to anything that goes on around him is just to tell lies.”

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However, Ms Burley pointed out: “Labour suffered a 16 percent swing in Hartlepool just 13 months ago.

“Back in 2003, under Tony Blair, in Brent Eat a 45 percent majority was overturned. There really aren’t any bellwether, are there?”

Mr Campbell said: “I simply said you said it’s not normal for governments to win by-elections, and I’m pointing out that’s simply not the case.

“We’ve won an awful lot of by-elections. The point today is what does this say about the state of our country and the state of our politics – it is something Tories need to wake up to.”

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Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said the result in Wakefield has put Labour “on the path to that general election victory”.

Ms Haig added the outcome of the vote was a “massive rejection” of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the “lack of agenda of his Tory government”.

She told BBC Breakfast: “I think this clearly shows that we are building back those votes and helping regain the trust of those voters that we lost in 2019. But, clearly, we need to do much more than win the voters that we lost then.

“I think Wakefield demonstrates that we are winning back, and winning for the first time, people who’ve voted Tory for a very long time.

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“For the first time that we’ve been in opposition, we have a leader that people in places like Wakefield can look to and think ‘that’s the kind of person I want to lead this country, that I can trust him as prime minister, I can trust him running the economy’. As I say, I think Wakefield puts us firmly on the path to winning the next general election.”

Mr Johnson has been facing intense pressure over his response to the Covid pandemic as well as his conduct during the lockdown, which resulted in a Met Police investigation.

The Prime Minister refused to resign after he was fined for breaking lockdown rules at his Downing Street office, and rejected the idea that he would quit if his governing party lost the so-called by-elections.

Reacting to the results, Mr Johnson told reporters: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results… I think as a Government I’ve got to listen to what people are saying.

“We’ve got to recognise there is more we’ve got to do… we will keep going addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”

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