Labor’s Simon Lightwood won the West Yorkshire seat in Wakefield, in the north of England, by a majority of 4,925 on a 12.7 percentage point turn from the Conservatives to Labor.
Moments later, Liberal Democrat Richard Foord won the midterm elections in Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, western England, with a dramatic swing of almost 30 points. The Conservatives had held the seat with a majority of more than 24,000 votes, so the victory was one of the largest majorities ever toppled in a British parliamentary by-election.
Helen Hurford, the defeated Conservative party candidate, had locked herself in a room previously reserved for media interviews at the census site and reportedly refused to speak to any media, PA Media reported.
“This is a historic victory for the Liberal Democrats and a devastating blow to the Conservative MPs who continue to support Boris Johnson,” a Liberal Democrats spokesman told the British media.
Johnson said the British government needed to “listen to the results” of the crushing midterm losses that prompted the Conservative Party’s own chairman Oliver Dowden to step down.
Speaking during a joint interview during a visit to Rwanda, Johnson called the “hard” results a “reflection of a lot of things”, acknowledging that British voters are “going through a hard time at the moment.”
“As a government, I have to listen to what people are saying. And to the difficulties people are facing in terms of the cost of living, which I think for most people is the main problem,” Johnson noted.
Thursday’s midterm elections were triggered by high – profile resignations by conservative lawmakers – one who admitted to having watched porn in the British Parliament hall, and another found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy.
The results are significant – and deeply worrying for the ruling Conservative Party – for two reasons. The defeat of Tiverton and Honiton means that many once secure seats in the south and west of England could be in jeopardy in the next parliamentary elections. The Wakefield result suggests that Labor could take back many of the so-called Red Wall seats that went to Johnson’s party in the 2019 election.
Johnson has faced several other scandals that have hit his position in the polls – despite his 80-seat landslide victory just two and a half years ago. These include accusations of using donor money inappropriately to pay for a renovation of his Downing Street home and whipping MPs to protect a colleague who had violated lobbying rules.
A little tool in the box
If these scandals – often dismissed by government ministers as “Westminster Bubble” stories – were the British’s only concern, Johnson might not be in such serious trouble. But perhaps the biggest problem facing the Prime Minister is one that is out of his hands to some degree.
The cost of living crisis is escalating and the government has few tools in its coffers to make things easier for British citizens. There have been energy rebates and subsidies to help the most affected, but given the pace of inflation, they can largely not solve the scale of the problems.
Only this week did the country continue to struggle through the worst rail strike in 30 years. The unions and opposition politicians point sharply at Johnson for refusing to negotiate with the unions.
Johnson’s allies are likely to spend the next few days declaring that he is the only person who can turn it all around and bring the party back to a winning position ahead of the next parliamentary elections, which are currently scheduled for 2024.
That may be true. But it may also be true that the public has decided for him. How many once admired him as the man “Who Got Brexit Done”, as his campaign posters boasted – now he may just be just another ordinary politician for a large section of the public.
Johnson is out of the country this weekend, attending Commonwealth, G7 and NATO summits in Rwanda, Germany and Spain. It is normal when the leader is out of the country that the biggest plotters in Westminster do their best work. And there are a significant number of conservatives who believe that Johnson is pulling the party into oblivion and will cost them their jobs – and power.
He is already facing one vote of confidence. He could very well meet someone else before the end of the year. But the question that some conservative MPs are quietly asking is, has Johnson’s presidency sweated the ground? Is there anyone who could rebrand the party, as Johnson did in 2019, and lead a refreshed party to yet another victory?
Unless an election is called early, the Conservatives will have been in power for 14 years, asking the public to give them another five. In that time, they would have had three vastly different managers who were, it was thought at the time, the best people for the job.
If the country still feels it is going backwards, it will be very difficult for Johnson – or any other Conservative – to say that it is they who must take it forward and maintain a sincere face.
CNN’s Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.
Boris Johnson’s future in jeopardy as the Conservative Party hit double British midterm losses
Source link Boris Johnson’s future in jeopardy as the Conservative Party hit double British midterm losses