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Sun, 24 January 2021

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By Alice Lilly
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New Prime Minister to face crunch by-election test just a week after taking office

New Prime Minister to face crunch by-election test just a week after taking office
3 min read

Britain’s new Prime Minister will face his first electoral test just a week into the job, after the date of a crunch by-election was confirmed.


Government chief whip Julian Smith "moved the writ" to kick-start the process for the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to be held on 1 August, the week after either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt enter Downing Street.

The next leader faces a fight to hold on to the seat, which was vacated after constituents signed a petition to oust sitting Tory MP Chris Davies,who was convicted of expenses fraud.

Mr Davies - who retained the seat by 8,000 votes in the 2017 election - has been re-selected as the Tory candidate for the contest, however the party is expected to face a tough challenge from the Liberal Democrats.

Failure to hold the seat would mark a major blow for the new Tory leader, leaving them with a wafer thin majority of just two MPs ahead of a raft of crunch Brexit votes before the 31 October deadline.

More than 10,000 voters in the Welsh constituency backed a petition to remove Mr Davies, smashing the required 5,303 voters and making him just the second MP to be ousted under the recall rule.

He pleaded guilty in March to two counts of making false expenses claims after he attempted to split a £700 cost between two budgets with fake invoices.

He was fined £1,500, ordered to pay £2,500 towards legal costs and told to carry out 50 hours of community service for breaching the Parliamentary Standards Act.

In a statement issued following the recall petition reaching its target number of signatures, Mr Davies vowed to fight to regain the seat.

He said: "I am naturally disappointed with the result. What happened was my fault and no one else's.

"I sincerely apologise to all the people of Brecon and Radnorshire - and now it is absolutely right they have their say about whether they would still support me to be their Member of Parliament in a by-election.

"I hope they do, and look forward to regaining their trust and building on the process we have made over the last four years."

Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds, said: "Thousands of residents across Brecon and Radnorshire have taken the chance to demand better than a Westminster politics that fails to take their concerns seriously.

"Now we have a golden opportunity to do things differently. The clear choice in this by-election is between the Conservatives, whose chaos and infighting is letting our communities down, and a better future for our arena with the Welsh Lib Dems."

Peterborough's Fiona Onasanya was the first MP to lose her seat through the recall procedure after she was convicted of lying to police about a speeding charge and handed a three month jail sentence, earlier this year.

Read the most recent article written by Nicholas Mairs - Public sector workers to get 5% pay rise from April if Labour wins election

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