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Rishi Sunak faces first by-election test as polls close in Chester

The result is expected in the early hours of Friday morning.

A ballot box is emptied at Northgate Arena Leisure Centre

Polls have closed in Chester after people in the constituency cast votes for a new MP in Rishi Sunak’s first test at the ballot box.

The contest in the City of Chester will give Labour and the Tories a glimpse into how voters are reacting to a tumultuous six months for the Government, as it is the first Westminster by-election since Boris Johnson’s defenestration and the market chaos that defined Liz Truss’s short stint in No 10.

The vote is to replace former Labour MP Christian Matheson, who resigned his Commons seat after complaints of “serious sexual misconduct” were upheld by a parliamentary watchdog.

Mr Matheson, who denied the allegations, was facing a four-week suspension and was asked to resign by Labour before he quit.

Election officials confirmed that turnout was 41.2%, with 28,541 votes cast in the December poll.

The final result expected in the early hours of Friday morning, with counting underway.

Labour is expected to hold on the seat, having won it in 2019 for the third time in a row with a majority of 6,164.

The Tories, who last secured the affluent constituency in 2010, came in second in the last vote, with the Lib Dems in third.

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.

Meanwhile, Liz Wardlaw, the NHS nurse standing 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.

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