The Big Ben clock tower and the Houses of Parliament, left, are seen standing alongside the River Thames and Westminster Bridge in London, U.K. (Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg)

U.K. Tories Retain Cameron’s Seat in Electoral Test for May

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party held the Parliamentary seat vacated by her predecessor, David Cameron, in the new premier’s first electoral test.

The Conservative candidate, Robert Courts, won the special election in Witney, Oxfordshire, with 45 percent of the vote, down from the 60 percent Cameron won last year. The Liberal Democrats surged from fourth into second place, with 30 percent. Leader Tim Farron linked the result to the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, saying it was “a clear rejection of the Conservative Brexit government’s plan to take Britain out of the single market.”

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, which was pushed into third, dismissed the significance of the result in a safe Tory seat. The Liberal Democrats “threw a huge amount of resource at a by-election they knew they wouldn’t win,” he told the BBC.

In a second by-election, in Batley and Spen, Yorkshire, the Labour candidate Tracy Lynn Brabin retained the seat formerly held by Jo Cox, who was murdered in June. The Tories, Liberal Democrats, Greens and U.K. Independence Party didn’t field candidates out of respect for Cox.

The results preserve the status quo in the U.K. Parliament, where May has a narrow working majority of 16 seats in the House of Commons. Most lawmakers voted Remain in the June 23 referendum on European Union membership, and many are pushing for more scrutiny of May’s plans to negotiate an exit from the bloc, in line with the popular vote.