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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson under pressure after losing two parliamentary seats

Written by Javed Iqbal

  • Party chairman withdraws after defeat and says changes are needed
  • Conservatives are losing their seats in the southern heartland
  • Johnson’s electorate in 2019 bursts as Labor win back Wakefield
  • Prime Minister bound by scandal over lockdown parties

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative party lost two parliamentary seats on Friday, leading to his party’s resignation and renewed doubts about the future of Britain’s crisis leader.

The losses – one in the Conservatives’ traditional southern heartland and in a seat in the north of England from Labor in the last election – suggest that the election coalition Johnson rallied in the 2019 national election may be in shambles.

The transformation of Johnson from vote-winner to electoral responsibility could cause lawmakers to go against him again after months of scandal over COVID-19 lockdown parties and amid a growing cost-of-living crisis.

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Johnson has resisted intense pressure to resign after being fined for breaking the shutdown rules at his Downing Street office, rejecting the idea that he would resign if his ruling party lost the so-called by-election. Read more

“It’s true that we’ve had some tough midterm results … I think I as a government need to listen to what people are saying,” Johnson told television stations after the results.

“We need to recognize that there is more we need to do … we will continue to address people’s concerns until we get through this patch.”

Johnson is currently out of the country in Rwanda for a Commonwealth meeting.

This month, he survived a vote of confidence from conservative lawmakers, even though 41% of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation by a committee over whether he deliberately misled parliament.

After the losses in Tiverton and Honiton in the south of England and Wakefield in the north, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden resigned, saying things needed to change.

“Yesterday’s parliamentary by – elections are the latest in a series of very poor results for our party. Our supporters are despairing and disappointed with recent events and I share their feelings,” Dowden said in a farewell letter to Johnson.

“We can not continue with business as usual. Someone must take responsibility and I have concluded that in these circumstances it would not be right for me to remain in office.”

Several Conservative lawmakers tweeted support for Dowden, saying he was not to blame for the findings in statements suggesting a resurgence of disagreement with Johnson’s leadership.

Although Johnson, under his party’s rules, cannot be challenged with a no – confidence vote for another year, lawmakers fearing for their own future may decide to reduce the grace period to create another vote.

A wave of resignations from Johnson’s cabinet of top ministers is seen as another way the prime minister can be forced out.

The next national election is scheduled to be held in 2024, but it may be called earlier.

‘GO NOW’

The Conservatives lost a large majority of more than 24,000 votes in Tiverton and Honiton, in a deeply conservative part of south-west England, defeated by the center-right Liberal Democrats, who secured a majority of more than 6,000.

The Liberal Democrats said it was the largest majority ever overthrown in a British parliamentary by-election, suggesting that other Conservative lawmakers may risk losing their seats in the party’s southern heartland.

Winning Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord said in his victory speech that Johnson should “go and go now”.

“For every day Boris Johnson clings to office, he brings further shame, chaos and neglect,” he said.

In the separate parliamentary seat Wakefield in the north of England, the main opposition Labor party also defeated the Conservatives. Read more

“Wakefield has shown that the country has lost confidence in the Tories. This result is a clear verdict on a Conservative party that has run out of energy and ideas,” Labor leader Keir Starmer said in a statement.

Johnson led the Conservatives to their largest majority in three decades in the 2019 national election and won praise from his party for his ability to win in traditional Labor polling stations in northern and central England.

However, the loss of Wakefield could indicate that his ability to win again in these areas at the next national election, expected in 2024, has also been compromised.

The by-election was triggered by high-profile resignations by conservative lawmakers – one who admitted to having seen pornography in parliament and another found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy.

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Reporting by Alistair Smout in London, further reporting by Andrew MacAskill in Kigali; Editing Elizabeth Piper and Toby Chopra

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.

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Javed Iqbal

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