February 4, 2023

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Crunch time for Boris Johnson: ‘He is really lucky to be in a job’

2 min read

Boris Johnson is facing a fight for political survival this month, but he will not be getting a hand from Paul Blackwell.

“I’m not voting Tory again while he’s in charge,” says the sales manager, out shopping in the southwestern town of Tiverton in Devon, where the prime minister faces a perilous parliamentary by-election later this month. “He’s a blithering clown. I usually vote for the Tories but I’ve lost faith.”

Around the corner at Tiverton’s bus station, a hub in this rural Conservative bastion, Terry, a retiree, is equally unimpressed. “He’s lied to people and he’s still doing the same now,” he says of the prime minister. “Old fashioned values have gone out of the window. There’s a lack of integrity from people at the top.”

Will he be voting Tory on June 23? He looks out over the green hills fringing the town centre: “Never again — not after all this.”

Johnson’s reputation has been battered by a scandal over parties in Downing Street during the Covid lockdowns. He now faces an economic tsunami of soaring inflation and the worst cost-of-living squeeze in a generation. The last thing he needs is a parliamentary by-election in Tiverton and Honiton — what should be a safe seat for the Conservatives.

Just two-and-a-half years ago, Johnson led his party to an overwhelming victory in a general election, winning a parliamentary majority of 80 seats. Last year he was praised for the government’s smooth and rapid rollout of Covid vaccines.

Andrew Pryce, director of James Pryce Tractors in Tiverton, has become a minor media celebrity, offering expert advice on whether it is possible to confuse farm machinery with porn © Charlie Bibby/FT

But after a constant drip of revelations in recent months about the behaviour of Johnson and his staff while the rest of the country was subjected to a brutal lockdown, his team will be relieved if they can get through June with the prime minister still safely in his post.

The Devon by-election,…

2022-06-05 00:00:36

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