Johnson’s Tories crushed in twin UK parliamentary by-elections
NNN: Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered two landslide partial defeats in parliamentary elections on Friday, including in a seat previously held by the ruling Conservatives for more than a century, prompting the party’s chairman to resign.
In a surprising reversal, the Conservatives saw their December 2019 general election majority of over 24,000 votes overturned by centrist Liberal Democrats in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency.
At the same time, the main Labor opposition won back Wakefield’s seat in Westminster in northern England in a further sign of its resurgence after the party’s worst electoral performance in decades two-and-a-half years ago.
The disastrous results for the Conservatives are bound to put new pressure on the embattled Johnson, as the highly damaging “Partygate” scandal involving lockdown-breaking meetings in Downing Street continues to dog him and his party.
The latest in a series of Tories electoral defeats in the past year, the awful results prompted the immediate resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden.
“Our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their sentiments,” Johnson’s key ally wrote in a resignation letter to the Conservative leader.
“We cannot continue with business as usual. Someone needs to take responsibility and I have come to the conclusion that in these circumstances it would not be right for me to continue in office.”
But Johnson, in Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit, insisted he would not resign.
“Clearly we need to hear these results,” he told accompanying UK broadcasters.
“We will move forward, addressing people’s concerns,” Johnson added.
‘Wake-up call’ The vote took place on Thursday after former Conservative MPs from the two areas resigned in disgrace in recent months.
Former Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish has resigned after admitting to viewing porn on his phone in the House of Commons, while Wakefield’s Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for sexually assaulting a teenager.
The Liberal Democrats won Tiverton and Honiton, parts of which have voted Conservative in every general election since the 1880s, by more than 6,000 votes in a 30 per cent variance.
The party, which has historically done well in the South West, appeared to benefit from the tactical vote, with Labor’s turnout falling by almost 16 per cent.
Meanwhile, in Wakefield, one of dozens of traditional Labor seats Johnson took in 2019 on a promise to “end Brexit” and address glaring regional economic inequalities, the opposition party won by nearly 5,000 votes.
Visiting the constituency on Friday morning, Labor leader Keir Starmer said his party’s victory in one of its old heartland seats showed it was “on track” to regain power for the first time in more than a decade. in the next general election scheduled for 2024.
“What a judgment this is on the Conservatives and Boris Johnson… out of touch, out of ideas,” he told reporters there.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said his party’s victory in the South West was a “wake-up call to all Conservative MPs who support Boris Johnson”.
Sensation of crisis Johnson has been fighting for his survival for months after several controversies.
Opinion polls have shown that most people think he lied about the Downing Street Covid lockdown breaking events and should resign.
Even before controversy erupted last December, the 58-year-old architect of Brexit oversaw the loss of two once-safe seats in last year’s by-election.
He then scored dismally in the local elections in May.
Weeks later, dozens of Conservative MPs provoked a no-confidence motion in which more than 40 per cent of them abandoned Johnson, leaving him severely weakened and struggling to reinstate his turbulent mandate.
Britain, meanwhile, is gripped by 40-year highs in inflation and a cost-of-living crisis that has seen prices of everyday essentials such as energy, petrol and food skyrocket.
This week’s strikes by rail workers were some of the biggest in Britain in decades and have added to the sense of crisis.
Johnson, who is traveling to Germany and then Spain for the G7 and NATO summits after his current visit to Rwanda, will not return to Britain until the end of next week.
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