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In a major setback, Boris Johnson’s party loses 2 parliamentary bypolls


Boris Johnson is not due to return to Britain until the end of next week.

London:

Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered two crushing by-election defeats on Friday, including in a seat in south-west England previously held by his ruling Tories for more than a century, prompting the President of the party to resign.

In a stunning reversal, the Conservatives saw their December 2019 general election majority of more than 24,000 votes overthrown by the centrist Liberal Democrats in the constituency of Tiverton and Honiton.

Meanwhile, Labor’s main opposition has won back the Westminster seat in Wakefield, northern England, in further signs of its resurgence after the party’s worst election performance in decades two and a half years ago.

The disastrous results for the Tories are set to put further pressure on beleaguered Johnson, as the deeply damaging ‘Partygate’ scandal involving lockdown-breaking rallies in Downing Street continues to plague him and his party.

They had been tipped to lose both by-elections and Johnson had already vowed on Thursday – while in Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit – that he would not quit if that happened.

But the disastrous results, the latest in a string of election defeats for the Tories last year, led to the immediate resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden.

“Our supporters are saddened and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings,” Johnson’s top ally wrote in a resignation letter to the Conservative leader.

“We can’t carry on business as usual. Someone has to take responsibility and I’ve come to the conclusion that under these circumstances it wouldn’t be right for me to stay on.”

“Awakening”

The votes came on Thursday after former Tory MPs from both regions both resigned in disgrace in recent months.

Ex-Tiverton and Honiton lawmaker Neil Parish resigned after admitting watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons, while Wakefield’s Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for sexually assaulting a teenager.

The by-elections also follow months of scandals and setbacks that have severely shaken the popularity of Johnson and his party, and come just weeks after narrowly surviving an attempt by his own lawmakers to oust him as as Conservative leader and Prime Minister.

The Liberal Democrats won Tiverton and Honiton – which had voted Conservative in every general election since the 1880s – by more than 6,000 votes, according to officials at a counting center in nearby Crediton.

Meanwhile, in Wakefield – one of dozens of traditional Labor seats Johnson won in 2019 on a promise to “get Brexit done” and address gross regional economic inequalities – the opposition party won nearly 5,000 votes.

Labor leader Keir Starmer, who plans to replace Johnson as prime minister in the next general election due by 2024, said his party’s victory in one of its old heartland seats showed that he could regain power for the first time in more than a decade.

“Wakefield has shown the country has lost faith in the Tories,” he said in a statement, following Labour’s first by-election victory since 2012.

“This result is a clear judgment on a Conservative Party running out of energy and ideas.”

“Lies and Breaking the Law”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said his party had made “political history with this stunning victory” and it was “a wake-up call for all those Tory MPs backing Boris Johnson”.

“The public is fed up with Boris Johnson’s lies and offenses and it’s time Tory MPs finally do the right thing and sack him,” he added.

Johnson has spent months fighting for her survival after a series of controversies.

Various opinion polls have shown the public believe they lied about the events of breaking the Covid lockdown at Downing Street and should resign.

Even before controversy erupted last December, the 58-year-old Brexit architect saw the loss of two once secure seats in last year’s by-election.

He then scored miserably in the local elections in May.

Weeks later, dozens of Tory MPs triggered a vote of no confidence in Johnson, which saw more than 40 per cent of them abandon their leader, leaving him severely weakened and struggling to reset his turbulent tenure.

The polls come as Britain grapples with 40-year highs in inflation and a cost of living crisis that has seen prices soar for basic necessities such as energy, food gas and food.

The strikes by railway workers this week – including on Election Day Thursday – have been among the largest seen in Britain for 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, is not due to return to Britain until the end of next week.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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