Rishi Sunak has called on British conservatives to “come together” after a bruising set of by-election defeats in Wellingborough and Kingswood.

The losses to Labour and an emboldened Reform UK party came as a twin blow to the Prime Minister, with the results the latest in a series of by-election defeats for Mr Sunak.

The results mean the Conservative Government has endured more by-election losses than any administration since the 1960s, surpassing the eight defeats suffered by John Major in the run-up to Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide victory.

Mr Sunak, who had sought to play down the losses as “difficult” mid-term elections, on Friday night called on right-wing and conservative voters to unite to keep Sir Keir Starmer out of Number 10.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: “Later this year, we will have a general election that will decide who governs our country. I am confident that by then we will have made more progress, that the plan will be delivering the security and opportunity that people crave.

“At the next election, I will need the support of everyone who wants lower taxes and secure borders because the alternative, Keir Starmer, believes in neither of those things.

“The Conservative family must come together to defeat Labour and ensure a brighter future for our country. A vote for anyone other than the Conservatives will just help Starmer.”

The Wellingborough by-election was triggered by the six-week Commons suspension of former Tory MP Peter Bone after an inquiry found he had subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, the Kingswood vote came after former Conservative MP Chris Skidmore resigned in protest at Government legislation to boost North Sea oil and gas drilling.

The results came as a major boost to Sir Keir’s party after a difficult few days, with Labour gripped by a row over antisemitism and reeling from the decision to drop Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali.

“I think there is a message now from these by-elections… I think the country is crying out for change. Everybody knows that,” Sir Keir said in the wake of the results.

“Things aren’t working. Their NHS isn’t working. They’ve got a cost-of-living crisis. I think they’ve concluded that the Tories have failed after 14 years.”

The results are already placing further pressure on Mr Sunak from within the right of his own party to “change course” with tax cuts and a harder stance on immigration to win back voters wooed by the Nigel Farage-linked Reform Party.

POLITICS ByElections
(PA Graphics)

The defeats also capped a tricky few days for Mr Sunak, after official figures showed the UK entered a technical recession at the end of last year.

The Tories have now clocked up more by-election defeats than any other government in a single parliament since Harold Wilson’s 1960s Labour administration.

It also means the party has suffered the most losses of any Conservative administration than in any single parliament since the Second World War.

By-elections graphic
(PA Graphics)

The Conservatives sought to put a gloss on the results by highlighting low turnout, which stood at just 37% in Kingswood and 38% in Wellingborough.

But Labour overturned majorities of 11,220 and 18,540 respectively, delivering the Government’s ninth and 10th by-election defeats of the current Parliament and securing its second-largest swing from the Tories ever.

Gen Kitchen secured Wellingborough with 45.8% of the vote, while Damien Egan won Kingswood with 44.9% of the vote.

Gen Kitchen
Gen Kitchen overturned a massive Tory majority in Wellingborough (Joe Giddens/PA)

Both contests were seen largely as two-horse races between Labour and the Tories, though the Conservatives also faced the threat of strengthening support for Reform UK among disgruntled voters on the right.

Richard Tice’s party scored more than 10% of the vote for the first time in a by-election, with deputy leader Ben Habib winning 13% in the heavily pro-Leave constituency of Wellingborough.

Rupert Lowe, its candidate in Kingswood, won 10%.