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Somerton and Frome by-election: Tories and Lib Dems push to get vote out as queues form at polling stations

With the Lib Dems firm favourites for another by-election win, one local Tory even suggests their party's last-ditch publicity surge could be a bid to avoid falling into third behind Labour

Conservatives campaigners are making a last-minute push to get their vote out in Somerton and Frome as they face losing a 19,213 majority to the Liberal Democrats in the key Somerset by-election.

Following a publicity blitz over the past 24 hours, Tory volunteers were said to be fearful that many traditional supporters would stay at home and allow the Lib Dems to take their fourth by-election victory over the Conservatives in a little over two years.

Tory candidate Faye Purbrick took advertising on the home page of a local news website from Thursday morning, while party workers laboured late into Wednesday evening to increase the visibility of campaign posters around the rural constituency.

Despite the renewed effort, bookmakers have Lib Dem candidate Sarah Dyke as a big odds-on favourite to take another supposedly safe Conservative seat.

Despite a short four-week campaign the Lib Dems are thought to have benefited from a surge in support in recent days as they focus on pushing their tactical voting message to “kick the Tories out”.

One Tory volunteer even suggested the frenzy of recent last-ditch canvassing by their own party could be to ensure it is not pushed into third spot, with Labour candidate Neil Guild leapfrogging them into second place.

However, a Labour campaign insider suggested the party would remain in third.

“It’s not unusual that a party will do a last-minute publicity blitz, but posters don’t equate to votes,” said the Labour source. “It does look as if the Lib Dems’ tactical voting message is getting through, but if I were them, I’d be out right up until 10pm tonight getting their vote out and earning every single one of them.”

There were also early signs that polling stations across the constituency were busier than usual, with one voter saying they were surprised by the queue.

Constituent Pippa Goldfinger tweeted: “First time I’ve ever had to queue to vote early in the morning. First time I’ve seen more young people than older people at the polling station. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.”

However, the queue could also be down to the additional time taken by polling station staff to check the identity of locals as voter ID is being enforced in all three by-elections taking place today.

During its 40-year existence, Somerton and Frome, has been shared by the Tories and Lib Dems but, after 18 years as a Liberal Democrat seat, it returned to the Conservatives in 2015 and has remained with them ever since.

This latest mid-term poll has been caused by the resignation of David Warburton, who was suspended from the Conservative Party over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Warburton, denied the sex allegations but admitted to taking cocaine after drinking “incredibly potent” Japanese whisky.

The result of the by-election is not expected before 3.30am on Friday morning.

There are eight candidates standing in the Somerton and Frome by-election: Lorna Corke (Christian Peoples Alliance), Martin Dimery (Green Party), Sarah Dyke (Liberal Democrats) Bruce Evans (Reform UK), Neil Guild (Labour) Rosie Mitchell (Independent), Faye Purbrick (Conservative) and Peter Richardson (UK Independence Party).

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