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UK Opposition Wins Special El 12/02 06:19


   LONDON (AP) -- Britain's opposition Labour Party has handily won a special 
election for a northwest England seat in Parliament, the first test of voter 
sentiment since Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took office in October.

   Labour held onto the City of Chester constituency with an increased vote 
share of 61%, according to results announced Friday. Labour won 50% of the 
votes in Chester at the last national election in 2019.

   Labour leader Keir Starmer said the result showed people are "fed up" with 
the Conservative government.

   Thursday's election was called after Labour lawmaker Christian Matheson 
stepped down over allegations that he made inappropriate sexual advances to a 
member of his staff.

   The result is bad news for the Conservatives, whose popularity has been 
hammered by the scandal-plagued three-year-term of former Prime Minister Boris 
Johnson, which ended in September, and weeks of turmoil under his short-term 
successor, Liz Truss. Truss quit in October after her plan for unfunded tax 
cuts spooked financial markets and rocked the economy.

   Sunak replaced her and announced a package of tax increases and spending 
cuts aimed at restoring confidence in the nation's finances. But the economic 
picture remains gloomy: Inflation hit 11.1% in October, many people are 
struggling to pay soaring energy bills and millions of workers, including 
railway staff, ambulance drivers and nurses, are staging strikes to demand 
major pay increases.

   Newly elected Chester lawmaker Samantha Dixon said that "people in Chester 
and across our country are really worried."

   "Worried about losing their homes because they can't afford the mortgage 
repayments or the rent, worried about whether they can put the heating on, 
worried about whether they can put food on the table for their families," she 
said. "This is the cost of 12 years of Conservative government."

   Still, a national election does not have to be held until 2024, and 
pollsters warned that mid-term special elections often don't predict nationwide 

   Conservative peer and polling analyst Robert Hayward said the Tories were 
likely relieved they had not done worse.

   "There are some indications that there are opportunities there for the Tory 
party," he told Sky News. "But Rishi has to convince the public at large that 
he can manage out of this crisis, whichever crisis one's looking at -- and 
there's a lot of them."

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