Boris Johnson’s leadership was plunged into fresh crisis on Friday after two by-election defeats and the resignation of Conservative party chair Oliver Dowden, in the UK prime minister’s first electoral test since narrowly surviving a confidence vote.
In Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, Liberal Democrat Richard Foord overturned a Conservative majority of 24,239 votes, winning by 6,144 votes. The victory marked the biggest Tory majority overturned in a by-election and represented a 30 per cent swing to the Liberal Democrats.
In West Yorkshire, Labour regained Wakefield after Simon Lightwood beat his Conservative rival Nadeem Ahmed by 4,925 votes, marking a 12.7 percentage swing from Conservative to Labour.
The by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton were triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tory MPs and came after weeks of negative headlines for the prime minister and his government on a range of issues from the “partygate” scandal to the cost of living crisis.
The defeats highlighted the challenges facing the prime minister in both northern “red wall” seats the Tories captured from Labour in the last election and the Conservatives’ “blue wall” traditional strongholds in the south.
The results prompted the resignation as Conservative chair of Dowden, who in a letter posted on Twitter at 5:35 on Friday morning said the Tories could not “carry on with business as usual”.
He added: “Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.” He said he would “remain loyal to the Conservative party” but made no such pledge to the prime minister personally.
Speaking to reporters in Rwanda, Johnson thanked Dowden for his service and said the government understood the extent of the challenges faced by the public.
“It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results, they’ve been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we’ve…
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