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Boris Johnson Vows To "Keep Going" After Double By-Election Defeat And Shock Party Chair Resignation

4 min read

Boris Johnson has pledged to “listen” to voters following a bruising double by-election defeat in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton — but insisted he would “keep going” despite calls for him to resign.

The Liberal Democrats overtuned a huge Tory majority Tiverton and Honiton with a seismic 30 per cent vote swing, while Labour were able to re-take Wakefield, which they had held for more than 80 years before it fell to the Tories in 2019.

In the wake of the results, Johnson loyalist and Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden resigned from the position of party chairman, insisting "we cannot continue with business as usual".

Speaking from Rwanda on Friday morning, the Prime Minister admitted that his party had suffered "tough by-election results" and admitted that he “got to listen to what people are saying”.

He added that the cost of living crisis was the “number one issue” for most voters, and that the party has “got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment”.

“We’re now facing pressures on the cost of living. We’re seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs – that’s hitting people.

“We’ve got to recognise there is more we’ve got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going, addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”

There have been calls for Johnson to shoulder more of the blame for the results, following Dowden's resignation.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Dowden said we “cannot continue with business as usual” and urged that “someone must take responsibility” for the losses.

Several MPs have come out in support of the outgoing party chairman, with Northern Ireland select committee chair Simon Hoare claiming that Dowden “is not to blame for these results”.

North Thanet MP Roger Gale, a vocal critic of Johnson, said Dowden could "no longer defend the indefensible".

Lord Barwell, a Conservative peer and former chief of staff to Theresa May, said the party was “sleepwalking to a defeat at the next election” as he praised Dowden’s decision to quit.

Speaking to Sky News, he said he was “very pleased” that “someone in the Cabinet has realised” the electoral challenge they face.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Wakefield victory was a sign his party was on track to win the next general election, telling BBC Breakfast that he "couldn't be prouder of this historic moment” and said it was a “step towards the next Labour government".

Speaking from Wakefield, he added that Dowden’s resignation was a sign the Tory Party was "absolutely imploding" and if they had "any decency" they'd "get out of the way".

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh, who has run Labour's campaign in Wakefield, also welcomed Dowden’s resignation, and added that she hoped Johnson would also “take his fair share of responsibility”.

“Once again, everybody else seems to have to take responsibility and resign other than the main man, and I would have hoped that Boris Johnson would take his fair share of responsibility of this devastating blow of these two by-election losses,” she told BBC Breakfast.

“But, knowing the measure of the man as I do, I very much doubt he will.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the results should be a “wake-up call” for the “Conservative MPs propping up Boris Johnson”.

“The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for the country. The public is sick of Boris Johnson’s lies and law-breaking and it’s time for Conservative MPs to finally do the right thing and sack him,” he said.

Dowden's resignation follows Labour's victory in the West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield — which was won by the Tories in 2019 for the first time since 1932 — in a major by-election victory for the party. The seat became available after former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan was forced to resign after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 2008.

In Tiverton and Honiton, the Liberal Democrats have overturned the Conservative’s 24,000-strong majority in the “True Blue” seat in a major by-election blow for the government. Neil Parish was forced to resign as Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton after he admitted to having watched porn in the House of Commons. 

Earlier this month, Johnson narrowly avoided an attempt to oust him after Tory MPs voted by 211 to 148 to keep him in charge.

It meant 41.4 per cent of his MPs voted against him, raising concern over whether Johnson can continue to govern the party in the long term.

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