2023 by-elections: Lib Dems win Somerton and Frome after ex-Tory MP stood down following drug scandal

The Conservatives have lost the Somerton and Frome by-election to the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dem victory comes roughly a year after a similar result in the nearby Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

David Warburton stood down as the constituency’s MP last month, but shortly after it was found that an investigation into claims he sexually harassed someone was “materially flawed“.

However the MP – who had been suspended from the Conservative Party in parliament – did admit to drug use.

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Somerton and Frome results in full

  • Faye Purbrick – Conservative Party – 10,179
  • Neil Guild – Labour Party – 1,009
  • Sarah Joanne Dyke – Liberal Democrats – 21,187
  • Rosie Mitchell – Independent – 635
  • Martin Dimery – Green Party – 3,944
  • Lorna Irene Bromley Corke – Christian Peoples Alliance – 256
  • Bruce David Evans – Reform UK – 1,303
  • Peter Kevin Richardson – UK Independence Party (UKIP) – 275

His seat has now been taken over by the Lib Dems‘ Sarah Dyke with a majority of 11,008. The Tory candidate was Faye Purbrick.

Ms Dyke received 21,187 votes, while the Conservatives took 10,179, the Greens 3,944, Reform 1,303 and Labour 1,009.

This equates to a 29 point swing to the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives have never had a lower share of the vote in the seat.

Unlike Tiverton and Honiton, the Lib Dems have held Somerton and Frome in recent memory.

Speaking after her win, Ms Dyke said: “Tonight has been a stunning and historic victory for the Liberal Democrats, and it shows once and for all, the Liberal Democrats are back in the West Country.

“Lifelong conservative voters have today voted Liberal Democrat for the first time. Thank you for putting your trust in me to deliver for you. I will not let you down.”

Mr Warburton only won the seat for the Conservatives in 2015 off coalition minister David Heath, who had held it for 18 years previously.

But this election still required a sizeable shift in opinion from 2019, as the Conservatives had been sitting on a majority of more than 19,000.

The seat is largely older than average and has been less exposed to interest rate rises due to a lower number of mortgage-holders, with 43% of homes being owned without a loan. But the momentum had been swinging away from the Tories in the region.

David Warburton MP for Somerton and Frome

Image: David Warburton stood down as an MP

The 2022 council elections saw sizeable falls in the Conservative wards in the region, with the Lib Dems claiming first place in 10 of 13 seats and taking 40% of the vote.

The Tories won just one ward; the other two were taken by the Greens.

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