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UK Conservatives hold Parliament seat by reduced margin

Conservative candidate Louie French, center, celebrates victory in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election at Crook Log Leisure Centre in Bexleyheath, K...
Conservative candidate Louie French greets supporters as he celebrates victory in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election at Crook Log Leisure Centre in...

Conservative candidate Louie French, center, celebrates victory in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election at Crook Log Leisure Centre in Bexleyheath, K...

Conservative candidate Louie French greets supporters as he celebrates victory in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election at Crook Log Leisure Centre in...

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s governing Conservative Party has held onto a seat in Parliament in a special election triggered by a lawmaker’s death. But the party saw its margin of victory slashed after weeks of headlines about politicians’ ethics breaches and an uncertain coronavirus picture.

Conservative candidate Louie French was elected to the House of Commons for the district of Old Bexley and Sidcup, results showed Friday. He took 51.5% of votes cast, down from the 64.5% share the Tories won during the 2019 election. The Labour Party came second and increased its vote share by from 23.5% to 31%.

Turnout for Thursday's vote was 34%, about half the level that would be expected in a national election.

The election for the constituency in southeast London was triggered by the death from cancer of former Cabinet minister James Brokenshire in October at the age of 53.

The campaign came as scientists try to determine whether the new omicron coronavirus strain is likely to lead to a new surge in infections. Discovery of the variant led Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to tighten testing rules for travel and bring back a mask mandate for shops and public transport.

Johnson’s Conservatives also have been struggling to rebuff allegations that its politicians flout ethics rules. Last month the House of Commons voted to ban legislators from acting as paid political consultants after a lobbying scandal, and Johnson has been criticized for accepting gifts of holidays and money to refurbish his apartment.

But winning candidate French said the Bexley campaign had been dominated by local issues. He said it had been “a tough contest, which has been fought with dignity and respect.”