Further Blow To Johnson As Conservatives Lose Two Byelections

A forlorn looking Boris Johnson sits in front of a microphone against a black background
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Boris Johnson’s beleaguered run as Prime Minister continues as he faces two significant byelection losses after his recent win against a vote of no confidence.

Up for grabs were Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton. The byelections come after the constituency’s incumbent MPs were both caught in scandals.

What Triggered The Byelections?

Wakefield’s conservative MP, Imran Ahmad Khan was charged with sexually assaulting a 15 year old boy.

While waiting trial, Khan was suspended from the Conservative party but he remained as an independent MP for Wakefield until he was found guilty and jailed for 18 months[1]The Guardian: Imran Ahmad Khan sentenced to 18 months over sexual assault of boy, 15. In the wake of the conviction he was expelled from the Conservative party and he then resigned from the Commons which triggered the byelection.

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, had to step down after it emerged he had been caught watching porn in the House of Commons[2]CNN: UK Conservative politician resigns after admitting watching porn in Parliament. Parish admitted that he had watched porn on two separate occasions but that the first time was an accident as he had been looking at tractors, but acknowledged that the second time was deliberate. Of course, the internet had a field day with that revelation.

What Is The Impact Of The Wakefield Byelection Result?

Wakefield had been one of the “Red Wall” Conservative gains in the 2019 General Election seeing Labour’s majority of 2,176 overturned by a conservative majority of 2,258[3]Parliament.UK – Wakefield.

The gains in red wall seats – previously considered unwinnable by a Conservative party candidate[4]Wikipedia: Red wall (British politics) – bolstered the Tory’s Brexit efforts and gave them a much needed majority in order to pass their Brexit legislation.

Wakefield isn’t as “red wall” as it appears though and has had a chequered relationship with the Labour party.

The largest Labour majority was 14,000 in 1997 but they scraped through with just 360 in 1983[5]BBC News: By-election: Wakefield’s particularly interesting ballot despite the massive upheaval in the region thanks to Margaret Thatcher’s mining closure and anti-union policies.

For Johnson’s government to lose the seat so quickly after the 2019 General Election in the wake of “Partygate”, and now “Carriegate”, it’s a telling blow for both Johnson and the Conservative Party.

Labour candidate Simon Lightwood won with 13,166 votes with Conservative candidate Nadeem Ahmed coming second with 8,241 votes, giving Labour almost a 5,000 vote majority.

It’s important to note here that byelection turnout is usually lower than that for a General Election (by as much as 50% or more) which is why the majority is so low. The turnout was 27,466 (39.46%)[6]BBC News – Live byelection coverage.

What Is The Impact Of The Tiverton and Honiton Byelection?

This loss is even more of a blow to Johnson’s reign.

Recommended  Breaking: Boris Johnson Resigns As Prime Minister

In the 2019 General Election, the Conservative party had a majority of 24,239[7]Parliament.UK: Tiverton and Honiton.

Tiverton and Honiton was considered one of the safest Conservative seats in the country and the constituency has returned a Conservative MP to parliament since 1885[8]Midweek Herald: Honiton’s long history as true blue heartland – is that set to change on June 23?.

Liberal Democrat candidate Richard Ford overturned the Conservative majority with a winning vote count of 22,537 to Conservative Helen Hurford’s 16,393 meaning there was a huge 29.93% swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat.

Johnson’s loss of a safe seat is a huge blow and maybe a signal of further defeats to come in previously “unlosable” seats.

What’s Next For Boris Johnson?

The Conservatives have been repeatedly losing seats to the Liberal Democrats with some of the largest swings coming between 2021 and 2022[9]Sky News: Elections live: Double blow for Boris Johnson as Tories crash to two by-election defeats. If the trend continues then the Conservative Party could be in serious trouble at the next General Election – let alone the fact that there may be more byelections due to scandals, resignations or defections.

Johnson had said that it would be “crazy” to resign if he lost both byelections[10]Mirror: Boris Johnson says it would be ‘crazy’ for him to quit even if he LOSES crunch by-elections.

He also appears to be covering his back, according to the Mirror Johnson said “Governing parties generally do not win by-elections particularly not in mid term.”

Was that an excuse or a premonition?

Johnson is safe for the time being as after his vote of no confidence win 211-148, he can’t be challenged again for another year

Of course, that’s under the current rules[11]Independent: Tory elections key to Boris Johnson’s hopes of avoiding fresh no-confidence vote to be held next month and as we’ve seen recently Johnson isn’t afraid of tearing those up and it could be the case that his party petitions the 1922 committee to change the rule on when votes of no confidence can be made.

For now, Johnson is hanging on to his premiership but it remains to be seen how effective he can be with so many of his own party and voters becoming dissatisfied with his leadership and the way that he appears to be careering from scandal to scandal.

References

References
1 The Guardian: Imran Ahmad Khan sentenced to 18 months over sexual assault of boy, 15
2 CNN: UK Conservative politician resigns after admitting watching porn in Parliament
3 Parliament.UK – Wakefield
4 Wikipedia: Red wall (British politics)
5 BBC News: By-election: Wakefield’s particularly interesting ballot
6 BBC News – Live byelection coverage
7 Parliament.UK: Tiverton and Honiton
8 Midweek Herald: Honiton’s long history as true blue heartland – is that set to change on June 23?
9 Sky News: Elections live: Double blow for Boris Johnson as Tories crash to two by-election defeats
10 Mirror: Boris Johnson says it would be ‘crazy’ for him to quit even if he LOSES crunch by-elections
11 Independent: Tory elections key to Boris Johnson’s hopes of avoiding fresh no-confidence vote to be held next month
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