Oliver Dowden resigns as Tory chair after Conservatives lose two by-elections
Mr Dowden, who was due to appear on the morning media round for the Government on Friday, said in his letter to the PM the by-elections “are the latest in a run of very poor results for our party”.
“Our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings.
“We cannot carry on with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.”
The MP ended his letter by saying: “I want to emphasise that this is a deeply personal decision that I have taken alone.
“I will, as always, remain loyal to the Conservative Party.”
A dramatic swing of almost 30% from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats saw Richard Foord secure a majority of 6,144 in Tiverton and Honiton.
A Tory source said it was a “disappointing but not unexpected result” and “we are confident we will regain this seat at the next general election”.
In Wakefield, Simon Lightwood was elected with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7% from the Tories to Labour.
Wakefield was one of the so-called red wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being Labour since the 1930s.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Wakefield has shown the country has lost confidence in the Tories.
“This result is a clear judgment on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas. Britain deserves better.”
He said the result showed Labour “is back on the side of working people, winning seats where we lost before, and ready for government”.
Mr Johnson, who is at a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Rwanda, suggested it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats and said mid-term by-elections were “never necessarily easy for any government”.