Senior Tory Warns Wakefield By-election Loss Could Trigger Boris Johnson's Removal
A senior Tory has suggested that losing the upcoming by-election in Wakefield will be the moment when Conservative MPs decide to oust Boris Johnson.
Former minister Stephen Hammond, the MP for Wimbledon, told this week's episode of PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown, that there were "quite a lot" of Conservative MPs who, like him, are "worried" about losing the seat to Labour, and are viewing it as a key test of the Prime Minister's under-pressure leadership.
The majority of Conservative MPs remain supportive of Johnson despite the Prime Minister receiving a Fixed Penalty Notice for attending a lockdown-breaching Downing Street party and allegations that he misled parliament about his involvement in the partygate saga.
Next month's local elections are also seen as a possible trigger if the Conservatives perform poorly.
There is expected to be a by-election in Wakefield in the coming months, triggered by the resignation of Imran Ahmad Khan, who was elected as the seat's MP in 2019. Khan announced this month that he planned to resign after being convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
The Conservative majority in the Yorkshire seat is 3,358, and the contest is seen as one Labour leader Keir Starmer ought to win to have a realistic chance of winning the next general election.
However, Hammond said some Conservative MPs may look at loss in Wakefield as the moment to push for a change in leadership.
"If we don’t [win], there might be some thought about what we need to do to reassure those voters that came to us for the first time in 2019," he said.
Hammond told the podcast: "It is a Red Wall seat with a three and a half thousand majority – which is six times bigger than my majority and quite a lot bigger than other Tory majorities in Red Wall seats – and that will be a first sign of popularity in areas.
"We’ve been saying for a long time ‘look at the seats we’re winning in places where we have never won before, don’t worry about support drifting away in other areas’.
"But if we start to see that support [in Wakefield] drifting away – and I accept it’s a by-election and analysis showing the Tories lost by-elections between 2010-2015, 2015-2017 and 2017-2019 and were still the largest parties afterwards – it’d be quite a concern for colleagues if we didn’t win it and win it well".
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