Conservatives Suffer Setback in Parliamentary Election in Britain

Britain’s governing Conservative Party has lost the first of two parliamentary elections in a new blow to its embattled leader, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose future has been questioned by critics within his fractious political party.

The Conservatives were defeated in Kingswood, near Bristol, by 8,675 to 11,176 votes, losing a seat that the party had previously held. Votes were cast Thursday to replace two Conservative lawmakers who had quit Parliament, with the first set of results announced early Friday morning.

With a general election expected later this year, the result is likely to compound Mr. Sunak’s difficulties at a time when the British economy is shrinking, interest rates are high, and Britain’s health service seems to be in a state of almost permanent crisis. Opinion polls show his party trailing the opposition Labour Party by double-digit margins.

The results from the second parliamentary election, in Wellingborough, are expected later on Friday morning. Turnout in both contests was low at less than 40 percent, with many people staying home rather than casting a ballot.

A woman leaving a polling station after casting her vote in the Kingswood by-election near Bristol, Britain, on Thursday.Credit…Phil Noble/Reuters

The gloomy mood within the Conservative Party had already deepened on Thursday, after the release of economic data showing that in the last months of 2023, Britain had officially entered a recession.

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