Partygate: Boris Johnson braced for huge week of expectation management as by-elections loom

It is yet another vital week for Boris Johnson’s premiership, with the Prime Minister hoping to avoid two by-election defeats on Thursday.

I say two, because the Conservatives losing Wakefield is already a truth universally acknowledged, it is a nailed on Labour gain.

This in itself is not so shocking, given the Tory party’s previous holder of the seat Imran Ahmad Khan is now in jail for sexually assaulting a young boy.

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His replacement is such a strong candidate and media communicator his main headlines last week were for insisting people should give the Conservatives another chance as Harold Shipman was not representative of all GPs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing yet another big week for his political survivalPrime Minister Boris Johnson is facing yet another big week for his political survival
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing yet another big week for his political survival

The natural assumption would be the Tories could not hold the seat in the best of circumstances, so losing it is no reflection on the Prime Minister.

Privately Tory MPs say it is actually Mr Johnson’s conduct that is coming up on the doorstep, but this not being discussed is all part of the spin.

If you convince people the Conservatives lost because of the last guy, it won’t damage Mr Johnson’s already faltering leadership.

This kind of expectation management is also happening in Tiverton and Honiton, with the by-election held after Neil Parish was caught watching porn in the Commons.

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Liberal Democrats are the bookies favourite, but speaking to senior figures in the party they think this is all gamesmanship, with the Tories likely to retain.

While Mr Parish’s viewing habits are damaging, the constituency is still a traditional Tory seat with a 25,000 majority.

Overturning it would be a seismic change in voting habits, and one that really should call time on Mr Johnson.

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Instead it feels close either way, when really the Lib Dems should have no chance.

But thanks to the Downing Street media operation, any kind of win for the Prime Minister will be portrayed as an endorsement of him and a blow to the rebels.

The Tories may win a seat they should win and always win, but it will be treated as meaning far more than that.

That Conservative campaigners have left Mr Johnson’s name and face off campaign literature because he’s toxic will be mentioned considerably less.

These seats are important, but a Tory win is not enough. It’s the margin that will be crucial to understanding Mr Johnsons’s long-term future.



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