Boris Johnson under pressure after UK election defeats

  • Party chairman resigns after defeats, says change needed
  • The Tories lose their seat in the heart of the south
  • Johnson’s 2019 election divides
  • PM mired in lockdown holiday scandal

LONDON/KIGALI, June 24 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson’s Conservatives lost two seats in parliament on Friday, a blow to the ruling party that prompted the resignation of its chairman and heightened doubts over the prime minister’s future British.

In Rwanda for a meeting of Commonwealth nations, Johnson was defiant, pledging to listen to voters’ concerns and do more to tackle a cost-of-living crisis after what he described as results “difficult” in the two so-called by-elections. .

The losses – one in the Tory’s traditional southern heartland and an industrial seat in northern England won by Labor in the last election – suggest the broad appeal Johnson presented to win the 2019 election could fracture. .

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Fears Johnson has become an electoral liability could prompt lawmakers to act against him again after months of scandal over COVID-19 lockdown parties at a time when millions grapple with rising prices food and fuel.

Johnson has so far resisted pressure to resign after being fined for breaking lockdown rules at his Downing Street office. Read more

This month he survived a vote of confidence from Tory lawmakers, despite 41% of his parliamentary colleagues voting to oust him, and he is being investigated by a committee to find out whether he intentionally misled Parliament.

“I think as a government I have to listen to what people are saying,” Johnson told broadcasters in Kigali after the results. “We have to recognize that we have to do more.”

Following losses in Tiverton and Honiton in the south west of England and Wakefield in the north, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden resigned in a carefully worded letter which hinted he might believe that Johnson should take responsibility.

“We can’t carry on business as usual,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility and I have concluded that in these circumstances it would not be fair for me to remain in office,” added Dowden, a longtime Johnson ally.

Some conservatives have criticized him for running poor campaigns in both polling areas by ignoring local concerns.

Johnson responded by saying he understood Dowden’s disappointment but that “this government was elected with a historic mandate just over two years ago” and would continue to work towards that end.

A Conservative Party source said Johnson was not concerned about further resignations from his ministerial team of senior ministers and took a swipe at the media for what they called “misreporting” of the lockdown parties. Read more

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said “we all take responsibility” for the defeats. Read more

CONSERVATIVE DISORDERS

But the explanations provided by Johnson and his team may do little to assuage the Conservative Party’s frustration.

Several conservative lawmakers tweeted their support for Dowden, saying he was not responsible for the results in posts suggesting resurgent dissent against Johnson’s leadership.

Although under his party rules, Johnson cannot face another confidence motion for a year, lawmakers fearing for their own futures could try to force a change to prompt a second vote.

It could take some time. This would result in changes to the committee that represents Conservative lawmakers who do not hold government jobs.

A wave of cabinet resignations could also be another avenue to force Johnson out before the next national election, due in 2024. She could be called sooner, but US bank Citi said in a note that the likelihood of this be “limited”.

The by-elections were triggered by the resignation of Tory lawmakers – one who admitted watching pornography in parliament and another convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager.

The party lost its large majority of over 24,000 votes in Tiverton and Honiton to the centrist Liberal Democrats.

“If Tory MPs don’t wake up, I think in the next election voters will send them packing,” said Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey.

In the parliamentary seat of Wakefield, in the north of England, the main opposition Labor party won. Read more

“This result is a clear judgment on a Conservative party running out of energy and ideas,” said Labor leader Keir Starmer.

Johnson led the Tories to their biggest majority in three decades in the 2019 national election, winning in the traditionally Labour-voting areas of northern and central England.

But Wakefield’s loss could indicate his ability to repeat that trick has been compromised.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill in Kigali, Muvija M, William Schomberg, Kate Holton in London; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alison Williams

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

About Leah Albert

Check Also

Continue or heal? Suspension of swap payments following an event of default may not be unlimited | Hogan Lovells

Background The decision of the High Court (The joint administrators of Lehman Brothers International (Europe) …