Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces voters in very different parliamentary seats on Thursday and risks losing all three contests in what could be the worst one-day fortnightly result for any British ruling party in more than half a century.
The votes are one of the few remaining opportunities to gauge public support ahead of a national election expected next year, and a chance to assess whether the opposition Labor Party can turn its double-digit election run into victories.
A former finance minister and investment banker, Sunak has cultivated an image of a technocratic figure capable of solving complex policy challenges. But he failed to completely shake off his party’s chaotic past.
The election is set to fill seats vacated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned as MP last month after he was found to have misled Parliament about which parties were held in Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic, and his ally quit in solidarity.
A third vote takes place after a member of parliament resigns over allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use.
The results of the so-called by-elections are expected to be released in the early hours of Friday.
If Sunak lost all three votes, it would signal that his party was in danger of losing power in the upcoming elections as members of the public express frustration with stubbornly high inflation, high taxes and economic stagnation.
The last time a ruling party lost three by-elections in one day was in 1968.