Another Local Vote, and Another Setback, for Rishi Sunak

Britain’s governing Conservative Party, which is trailing badly in the opinion polls, lost one of its safest parliamentary seats on Friday in a significant new setback for the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who was also awaiting the result of another closely watched contest.

Voting in the two Conservative strongholds of Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire took place on Thursday to replace two of the party’s lawmakers — one of whom quit after an allegation of sexual assault — and came as Britain’s health care system faces acute strain and its economy stagnates amid high inflation.

The first result, announced early Friday, from Tamworth, is a stinging blow to Mr. Sunak, who, since he became prime minister last year following the brief and disastrous leadership of Liz Truss, has failed to close a persistent double-digit deficit in the opinion polls against the opposition Labour Party. The stakes are high because Mr. Sunak must call a general election within the next 15 months.

In Tamworth, northeast of Birmingham, the vote was to replace Chris Pincher, the former Conservative lawmaker who had represented the district. He resigned from Parliament after a drunken incident in which, it was alleged, he had groped two men. In the 2019 general election, Mr. Pincher won with a majority of 19,634. On Friday that was overturned when Sarah Edwards for Labour won 11,719 votes, and the Conservative candidate, Andrew Cooper, won 10,403.

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