Voters headed to the polls for a by-election on Thursday in Wales’ Brecon and Radnorshire constituency.
How did the by-election come about and why is it so important for the UK’s new prime minister Boris Johnson?
What is a by-election?
By-elections in the UK take place between general elections when a seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant.
This mostly occurs when the incumbent dies or resigns, but they also happen when an MP becomes ineligible to continue in office.
In Brecon and Radnorshire, MP Chris Davies was unseated when 19% of voters signed a recall petition after he was convicted over a false expenses claim.
What is a recall petition?
Recall petitions are a new process in the UK that were introduced in 2015.
They are launched in cases where MPs are convicted of an offence and received a custodial sentence, convicted of providing false information about their expenses or barred from the Commons for 10 sitting days.
Recall petitions result in a by-election when 10% of a constituency’s eligible voters sign them (5,303 in Brecon).
In cases where an MP is sentenced one year or more in prison, no petition is triggered because they immediately lose their seat.
The by-election in Brecon is the second time an election has been triggered via recall petition — former Labour MP for Peterborough, Fiona Onasanya, was convicted for lying about a speeding offence and a by-election was held on June 6, 2019.
Who is standing in Brecon by-election?
Six candidates are standing in the by-election for which polling started at 8 am CEST and close at 11 pm CEST.
The Conservatives reselected Davies as the party’s candidate despite his conviction and candidates from Labour, Liberal Democrat, Brexit Party, UKIP and Monster Raving Loony are also standing.
Why is it important to Boris?
The Brecon by-election is Boris Johnson’s first electoral test since he took office as UK prime minister.
His Conservative party has a tiny majority in the Commons — if they lose this seat, their working majority in Parliament will be cut to one.
An even smaller majority would make it more difficult for Johnson to deliver Brexit for the October 31 deadline as well as leaving him more vulnerable should a motion of no confidence be tabled.
Davis is defending a majority of just over 8,000 in Brecon.
The Liberal Democrats held the constituency before 2015 and its new leader, Jo Swinson, will be looking to make her mark in the by-election by having her candidate Jane Dodds elected.
Two other anti-Brexit parties, the Greens and Plaid Cymru, have agreed not to put forward candidates to help her party’s chances.
The by-election result is expected to be announced early on Friday morning.
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