Labour party candidate Simon Lightwood arrives at a counting center after a by-election in Wakefield
Labour party candidate Simon Lightwood arrives at a counting center after a by-election in Wakefield, Britain, June 23, 2022. REUTERS/Phil Noble Photo: Reuters/PHIL NOBLE

Johnson's Conservatives lose two by-elections

By Alistair Smout

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party was defeated in two parliamentary by-elections, results showed early on Friday, after a historic collapse in support, in a fresh blow for the embattled leader that will likely renew speculation about his future.

The losses - one in the Conservatives' traditional southern heartlands and in a northern England seat won from Labour last election - suggest that the electoral coalition Johnson brought together at the 2019 national election may be fracturing after months of scandal and amid a growing cost-of-living crisis.

Johnson has come under intense pressure to resign after he was fined for breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules after a police investigation into gatherings at his Downing Street offices.

This month he survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers, though 41% of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation by a committee over whether he intentionally misled Parliament.

The Conservatives lost a majority of more than 24,000 votes in Tiverton and Honiton, in a deeply Conservative part of southwest England, defeated by the centrist Liberal Democrats who secured a majority of more than 6,000.

The Liberal Democrats said it was the biggest ever majority to be overturned at a British parliamentary by-election, suggesting that other Conservative lawmakers may be at risk of losing their seats in the party's southern heartlands.

"Tonight, the people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for Britain. They've sent a loud and clear message: It's time for Boris Johnson to go, and go now," the winning Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord said in his victory speech.

"With every day Boris Johnson clings to office, he brings further shame, chaos and neglect."

In the separate parliamentary seat of Wakefield in northern England, the opposition Labour party also defeated the Conservatives.

"Wakefield has shown the country has lost confidence in the Tories. This result is a clear judgement on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas," Labour leader Keir Starmer said in a statement.

The two by-elections were the voters' first chance to give their verdict on Johnson since a damning government report last month detailed a series of illegal lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street during the pandemic.

Johnson led the Conservatives to their biggest majority in three decades at the 2019 national election, winning praise from his party for his ability to win in traditionally Labour-voting areas in north 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 been compromised too.

Johnson on Thursday rejected the suggestion that he could resign if the Conservatives lost both seats, saying it was common for governing parties to lose mid-term by-elections.

The by-elections were triggered by high-profile resignations of Conservative lawmakers - one who admitted watching pornography in parliament, and another found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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The Wakefield result actually isn’t that great for Labour - of course they won the seat but they’d have liked a much larger swing than that.

On the other hand, the Tiverton result is an absolute disaster for the Tories.

Good luck to anyone trying to put a positive spin on the loss of a 24,000 majority.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Tory patron saint of lost causes these days. Maybe he’ll have a crack.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

While Johnson thinks he can bluster and talk posh in his pifflepaffle to excuse his crassness.

Looks like the British public can see him for the dishonest rat that he is.

Good on them

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Re:Wakefield, a lot of originally working class folks, i.e, old people in the "Red Wall", are so fatigued with Brexit and Covid that they can't be bothered with politics anymore. They dismiss it all with comments like "politicians are all the same", which is clearly untrue. The only politicians who made rules and heavily fined other people while breaking the same themselves are the ones in power. Those politicians are clearly worse than the others and do not deserve reelection. PM Johnson lied to the Queen, illegally prorogued Parliament, and almost certainly lied to Parliament about the parties. This makes him worse than previous PMs, Cameron and May included.

If I were a cynic, I would suggest many of these older folks are able to be fatigued with politics because they already own their own homes and have pensions protected by the triple lock. This places them in a far more comfortable position than many younger people who may work in professional jobs but still see a historically high chunk of their income disappear in rent.

Tiverton, yes, that's a disaster for the Tories, of historic proportions.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

With any luck, this will be the last we hear from BoJo unless he is doing a very convincing imitation of a clown on a children's show (although given how he tackled that one kid....)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This needs to happen in a general election, there are plenty of conservative voters out there who still see BJ as a wonderful PM doing a great job. I mean really. Unbelievable

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Voters can trust Tories like they do GPs after Harold Shipman, says Wakefield candidate

Thank goodness the labour candidate sent this prattling fool into obscurity

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interesting take on these results from a pollster:

“Labour lost its deposit in Tiverton and won Wakefield on a decent swing. Lib Dems lost their deposit in Wakefield and won on a huge swing in Tiverton. This is industrial scale tactical voting”

Very bad news for the Tories if this is the case and continues further.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It’s pretty volatile. In that respect, the UK resembles the USA. The world’s two biggest English-speaking democracies, in absolute turmoil. The UK is crying out for competent leadership and some stability. Any chance of that, anytime soon?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The turn out in Wakefield was just 20%?!!

Wakefield Constituency Parliamentary by Election – Thursday, 23 June 2022

Tiverton and Honiton by-election. turnout is 52.3 %.

Around 23,000 conservative voters simply abstained.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

he turn out in Wakefield was just 20%?!!

I've read it was 39%. Still low. It was 64% at the last general election.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


I am struggling with the 20% too it is a round number unusual with by elections.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mid-term by-elections often go like this, but I think the Tories are really starting to get nervous now.

Nothing loses you votes like inflation. Europe weaponised Russian energy without considering the consequences.

Johnson won pro-Brexit votes all over the UK in the last election as many Britons are gullible and xenophobic, easily pandered to by populists. Now they have their Brexit, but it hasn't delivered utopia. Quite the reverse. Unhappy bunnies everywhere.

So, will Johnson stick it out? He has been baled out by Covid, the vaccines and then Putin already, so Lady Luck clearly likes him. He may simply carry on, as the Tories shot their bolt prematurely in their attempt to shift him. If he goes, it probably won't make much difference to the fortunes of the Tories. Either way, Putin can sit back and watch European regimes fall to the consequences of inflation. In winter, he can freeze them too. A government that cannot keep the lights on, doesn't stay in power.

Perhaps environmentalists should have been emphasising the self-sufficiency aspect of green energy these past decades rather than impending ecological collapse.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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