Chester by-election: who are the candidates, when is it, why did Labour MP Christian Matheson resign?

Labour MP Christian Matheson resigned from Parliament earlier in 2022

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing his first electoral test as voters head to the polls in Chester.

A by-election is taking place in the north west after Labour MP Christian Matheson resigned. The contest will give both Labour and the Tories a glimpse into how voters are reacting to a tumultuous six months for the government.

It is the first by-election Boris Johnson resigned and Liz Truss’s short reign at Number 10 was marred by market chaos. Polling stations opened at 7am on Thursday (1 December).

Sunak became leader of the Conservative Party and the third Prime Minister in as many months in October. He replaced Truss after her disasterous spell in Downing Street.

The by-election is taking place in the City of Chester seat. Labour is expected to hold it, having won it in 2019 for the third time in a row with a majority of 6,164. Here is all you need to know:

When is the Chester by-election?

The by-election for the City of Chester seat is taking place on Thursday (1 December). It comes following the resignation of Christian Matheson in October.

What time do the polls close?

The voting for the City of Chester by-election began at 7am on 1 December and the polls are open until 10pm. The result is expected in the early hours of Friday (2 December) morning.

Labour has held the seat since 2015 and is expected to retain it. The Tories, who last secured the affluent constituency in 2010, came in second at the last vote, with the Lib Dems in third.

CHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: A member of the public leaves the Festival Church polling station after voting in the Chester by-election on December 01, 2022 in Chester, England. The Commons seat was vacated when Labour MP Chris Matheson resigned following allegations he had breached the sexual misconduct policy of the House of Commons. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Who are the candidates for the by-election?

The full list of candidates standing in the by-election for the City of Chester seat are:

  • Reform UK - Jeanie Barton
  • Green - Paul Bowers
  • Labour - Samantha Dixon
  • UKIP - Cain Griffiths
  • Liberal Democrats - Rob Herd
  • Rejoin EU - Richard Hewison
  • Monster Raving Loony - Howling Laud Hope
  • Freedom Alliance - Chris Quartermaine
  • Conservative - Liz Wardlaw

Labour’s candidate Sam Dixon has described the by-election as “our poll of polls on Rishi Sunak”. “We need to send a really clear message to the Conservative Government,” she told the Labour List website.

Liz Wardlaw, the NHS nurse batting for the Tories, has said she can offer “real life experience” in the role. The last two by-elections, which took place on the same day in June, were a disaster for the Conservatives – with Labour snatching Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats securing a historic victory in Tiverton and Honiton.

Why did Chris Matheson resign?

The Labour MP who had first won the City of Chester seat in 2015 and held it again in the 2017 and 2019 general elections, resigned in October 2022. He quit after complaints of “serious sexual misconduct” were upheld by a parliamentary watchdog.

Matheson, who denied the allegations, was facing a four-week suspension and had been asked to resign by Labour before he quit. A report from the Independent Expert Panel recommended the suspension after Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, upheld two allegations of sexual misconduct against Matheson by a former member of his staff.