The cost of living/inflation crisis and the lack of communication from the government over policy direction and delivery were major factors.

London: The dire Conservative byelection results in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield—the first was lost to the Liberal Democrats and the second to the Labour—were largely anticipated due to the cost of living/inflation crisis and the lack of communication from the government over policy direction and delivery. The byelection campaign was well run by technocrat Tory co-chairman Oliver Dowden. Sources say that both constituencies had three visits from every Tory MP, front and back bencher, and every candidate on the candidates’ list, which amount to a record of over 1,300 visits to each constituency during the campaign period. Dowden has since resigned, offering himself as the sacrificial lamb over the results. Many have remarked he stated his loyalty to the party, not to the Prime Minister—either way, Dowden will have a renaissance.
Nor did the behaviour of both incumbent MPs endear voters to conservative values. Neil Parish eventually resigned after watching porn in the House of Commons and Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted of child molestation. The replacement candidates in both Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield may not have sleazy or sex-crime records, but were they top-notch candidates? Was local candidate Helen Hurford really the best the Devon region had to offer? Her total lack of maturity and unsuitability was evidenced when she hid in a room during/after the count, and refused to comment on the result. Nadeem Ahmed was forced to resign as a Wakefield Conservative Councillor after losing a vote of no confidence at the end of a party meeting in July 2021. So how did these folks of questionable good character get into the House of Commons or onto the candidates’ list? Only the secretive Candidates Department can comment on their processes of selection and how they evaluate the quality of the candidates they select. It is totally unclear how effectively No. 10 interacts with this critically important department.
The Prime Minister has suffered criticism over Partygate, political protectionism, Rwanda deportation policy, visa policies for Ukrainians, and at the moment strike actions are threatened by railway, flight, police, NHS and civil service unions; the government has focused too much on the divisive “culture wars”, and not on issues that affect the majority of society. The Prime Minister’s supporters believe he is invincible and that the public accept his unconventionality. The government is smart, they allowed the 1922 Committee to hold their “vote of no confidence in the PM” before the byelections, in the knowledge that if the byelections were a blow to the Conservatives more backbenchers would have voted no-confidence. The Prime Minister himself has said he will listen to the voters and keep going. As it stands the PM is safe until a general election, be that in 2023 or 2024, unless the Tory rebels pressurise the 1922 to change the rules and permit another vote within one year.
However, this is not the great victory for Labour that some are propagating; the last time Labour took a seat from the Tories at a byelection was in 2012, and a 12.7% swing is not that fabulous.
In both constituencies, tactical voting is assumed as Labour lost their deposit in Tiverton & Honiton and the Liberal Democrats in Wakefield. This could not happen in a general election, if both parties stood candidates in all constituencies. On the other hand, the result is positive for the Liberal Democrats who are ever more popular in the South of England.