Three graphs depict the results of the by-elections in Chesham and Amersham.

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Three graphs depict the results of the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

Both left and right-wing politicians were surprised by the Liberal Democrat victory.

On Thursday night, the Liberal Democrats won the parliamentary seat of Chesham and Amersham with a massive 30 point increase.

This constituency has been an archetypal Conservative safe seat since its inception in 1974.

It has only ever had two Conservative MPs.

Even during Tony Blair’s 2001 “quiet landslide” victory, the Conservative vote share in Chesham had never dropped below 50% until Thursday.

On Thursday, it had only 36% of the vote, barely more than a third of the total vote.

The Liberal Democrat victory surprised both left and right-wing politicians – here’s how it compares to previous by-election results.

Some may interpret a 10% drop in Labour’s vote share as yet another indictment of Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership.

However, this is not as bad as you might think for Labour.

When the Liberal Democrats defeat a Conservative incumbent in a by-election, the Labour vote typically falls, as many former Labour voters vote tactically to avoid splitting the anti-Conservative vote.

A similar pattern emerged in 2016 and 2019, though eagle-eyed poll watchers will note that neither time Labour went on to win an election.

Chesham and Amersham has never had a by-election before, and by-elections tend to draw less attention and thus have lower turnout.

In Chesham and Amersham, turnout is usually quite high, hovering around 75%.

In this by-election, however, it dropped significantly, reaching just over half of the electorate.

As I explain here, those who switched or voted for the Liberal Democrats did so for a variety of reasons, including local ones.

Both the opposition to HS2 and the proposed changes to the planning system would have played a role, so this election may well prompt the Conservatives to reconsider their changes to a system that is especially important in Conservative heartlands.

The Conservatives’ recent by-election victory in Hartlepool was unusual, as by-elections are notoriously difficult for ruling parties to win.

Since 2010, there have been 30 by-elections.

UK news summary from Infosurhoy

Three graphs depict the results of the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

The Chesham and Amersham by-election result explained in three charts

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The Chesham and Amersham by-election result explained in three charts

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