LONDON – Britain’s ruling Conservative Party lost two strategically important parliamentary seats in the North and South elections on Thursday, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and raising new doubts about you scandalous leader.
Voters in Tiverton and Honiton, a rural southwest England region are the center of the party, and in the decaying industrial city Wakefield kicked the Conservatives out of open seats after lawmakers were demoted. peddled by their own scandals.
In Wakefield, the Labor Party secured a much-anticipated victory, by an easy margin over the Conservatives. In the south, once seen as subversive, the Liberal Democrats scored a more impressive result, beating the Conservative majority in the last election to secure seats by a solid margin. .
The double defeat is a stinging rebuke to Mr Johnson, who has survived a vote of no confidence at his party earlier this month, which ended in a scandal about illegal parties being held in Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic. It is likely to revive another vote of no confidence, although under current party rules Mr Johnson will not face another challenge until next June.
In an immediate sign of political collapse, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden, resigned on Friday morning. In a letter to Mr Johnson less than two hours after the vote count, Mr Dowden said party supporters were “sorrowful and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings,” saying added that “someone has to take responsibility. ”
The defeats have exposed the Conservatives’ vulnerabilities on two fronts: the so-called “red wall”, the industrial area in the north of England, where Mr Johnson has smashed the traditional Labor Party stronghold in the UK. 2019 general electionand in the southwest, a traditional Tory stronghold often referred to as the “green wall”.
It was the first double defeat for a ruling party in a parliamentary election since 1991. And as grim as the election prospects for the Conservatives, they could get even worse by next year, with hyperinflationinterest rates rose and Britain was almost certainly on the way to a recession.
In Tiverton, where the Liberal Democrats won 53% of the vote compared with 38% for the Conservatives, the winning candidate, Richard Foord, said the result would create “a shockwave across politics.” Older brother”.
Labor leader Keir Starmer said victory in Wakefield, where the Labor Party won 48 per cent of the vote to 30 per cent for the Conservatives, was “a clear verdict on a depleted Conservative Party” energy and ideas.”
Although the politics of the two counties are vastly different, they have one element in common: a Conservative lawmaker has resigned in disgrace. In Tiverton and Honiton, Neil’s Parish quit his job in April after he admitted to viewing pornography on his phone while sitting in Parliament. In Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison in May after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
Mr. Khan’s legal troubles, including numerous unsuccessful attempts to have his case heard in secret, meant that Wakefield had been without active representation in Parliament for two years. That left city dwellers deeply disillusioned, not just with Khan but with politics in general, analysts say.
Gavin Murray, editor of Wakefield Express, said: “The whole unfortunate situation is about a broken political system that ignores voters and their wishes and politicians not doing the right thing. right or serving those who brought them to power. “This point is amplified and exaggerated by the behavior of Boris and Downing Street.”
Although there is little expectation that the Conservatives will retain their seat in Wakefield, the size of Labour’s victory there suggests it can successfully compete with the Conservatives. in the next general election.
The big swings in the vote count in Tiverton and Honiton, which the Conservatives hope to hold, have made Mr Johnson even more serious.
The Liberal Democrats’ upset win, by a convincing margin, in one of the Conservatives’ safest areas shows that even the most loyal Tory voters have become frustrated with the Mass scandals and unrelenting drama surrounding the prime minister.
Last year, the Conservatives were stunned by the loss of parliamentary seats in Chesham and Amersham, a well-positioned borough in north-west London. Analysts said it suggested a backlash against Mr Johnson’s politically divisive branding and tax and spending policies.
The government has promised to “upgrade” and boost the economy in the North of England, a bonus for red wall voters. But some analysts see a significant risk of support fracture among the traditional Tories in the south.
The Liberal Democrats specialize in fighting local issues in by-elections. They have a long history of achieving unexpected results, and their success at Tiverton and Honiton has underpinned the group’s strong performance in local elections in Maywhere they are also the big winners.
In the days leading up to the two elections, the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats both focused their resources in the areas where they were better positioned to win, each letting the other. more freely.
Vince Cable, a former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that instead of any formal cooperation between the two parties, there was a “tacit understanding that relied on voters to achieve a coherent outcome”. physical.”
For all the symbols of defeat, Mr Cable said, “in the short term, this won’t do much harm to Johnson,” both because the prime minister recently won a vote of confidence among lawmakers. method and for failure has been “valuated”.
“Because the economic outlook is so dire, certainly over the next 12 to 18 months I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson did something very risky and entered a fall election,” Mr Cable said in a statement. pre-election meeting.
Kenneth Baker, the former chairman of the Conservative Party, said that the defeats in Tiverton and Honiton would underscore that “the position is rather bleak for the Conservative Party”, which won an 80-seat majority in Parliament in the general election. election in 2019.
“There is a huge opportunity for the Liberal Democrats right now because neither the Labor Party nor the Conservative Party have a vision or a strategy,” said Mr Baker, a member of the House of Commons. Mr Johnson, he added, is currently too polarizing one character to lead the party successfully.
“If the Conservative Party continues to be led by Boris,” he said, “there is no chance for the Conservative Party to win an overall majority.”