Politics RECAP: Former leader of Conservative Party Michael Howard calls for Boris Johnson to resign

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson after the Conservatives lost by elections in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield, making it the first time in more than 30 years that a government has lost two by-elections on the same day.

Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while in Wakefield, Simon Lightwood was elected with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7% from the Tories to Labour.

Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey celebrates with Richard Foord (right), the newly-elected Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election

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Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield: Boris Johnson and Conservatives suffer double ...

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.

Boris Johnson has said he will “listen” to voters but will “keep going” after the Tories suffered a double by-election defeat.

Politics LIVE: Pressure mounts on Boris Johnson as Oliver Dowden resigns as Tory chair after Conservatives lose two by-elections

Last updated: Friday, 24 June, 2022, 10:00

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Good morning and welcome to our live blog following a damaging night for Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has said he will “listen” to voters but will “keep going” after the Tories suffered a double by-election defeat.

The PM has thanked Oliver Dowden after he resigned as Tory party co-chairman.

Speaking to broadcasters in Kigali, the Prime Minister: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results, they’ve been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we’ve got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment.

“I think, as a Government, I’ve got to listen to what people are saying, in particular to the difficulties people are facing over the cost of living, which, I think, for most people is the number one issue.

“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.”

Boris Johnson sought to deflect from the by-election defeats being about his leadership.

He told broadcasters in Rwanda: “That may be your view. I think that what governments also have to recognise is that I don’t want to minimise the importance of what voters are saying, but it is also true that in mid-term, government, post-war, lose by-elections.

“I think if you look back to last May the truly astonishing thing was we managed to win Hartlepool in very different circumstances.

“What we need to do now is reflect on where voters are, and what they are basically feeling is that we came through Covid well and we took a lot of the right decisions there. But we are facing pressures on the costs of living.

“We are seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs, that is hitting people. We have to recognise that there is more that we have got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”

Boris Johnson has said he will “keep going” after his authority was dealt a series of blows by a double by-election defeat which triggered the resignation of a Cabinet minister.

The Prime Minister acknowledged on Friday that losing the former Tory stronghold of Tiverton and Honiton to the Lib Dems as well as surrendering Wakefield to Labour was “tough”, but he insisted he was pushing on, and vowed to “listen” to voters.

Conservative Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden quit, saying he and Tory supporters are “distressed and disappointed by recent events”, telling Mr Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

Mr Johnson, speaking to broadcasters 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where he is at a Commonwealth summit, thanked Mr Dowden for his “excellent” service in the role.

Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP who is treasurer of the party’s influential 1922 Committee of backbench MPs. has told the BBC that he party is in a precarious situation,

He describes the by-election losses as a “very serious and large defeat in two completely different areas of the country”.

The Conservative Party need to “think very carefully about the future and how we’re going to remedy the situation” so we do stand the best possible chance of winning the next election, he says.

The Liberal Democrats needed a swing of at least 22.8 percentage points to win Tiverton & Honiton – in other words, 23 in every 100 people in the constituency who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election needed to switch directly to the Lib Dems.

Boris Johnson tried to defend his record by highlighting how the Tories won Hartlepool from Labour in May 2021.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the Prime Minister said: “Without in any way wishing to minimise the lesson from by-elections – it was only a little over a year ago we won a Labour seat.”

Sir Ed Davey was challenged on Sky News over his claim the Liberal Democrats’ victory in Tiverton and Honiton had beaten the biggest-ever majority to be overturned in a by-election.

Presenter Kay Burley told him the party had won over the biggest-ever Conservative majority in a constituency, but said bigger Labour majorities in Glasgow, Hamilton and Ashfield had been defeated throughout by-election history.

“Just to clarify, you said it was the largest by-election overturn result of a majority in living history, that’s not right is it?” she said.

Sir Ed said: “My figures are what I’ve just given you, Kay. It’s a huge victory we can quibble about size if you like, but it’s absolutely massive.”

Louise Haigh has said she hopes Tory MPs will now remove their “deceitful, dishonest leader” following losses in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield.

She told BBC Breakfast: “I very much hope that Tory MPs will now reflect and recognise that the British public are sick to death of this Government that wants to divide this country, that wants to play political games, rather than resolve the very many issues that this country is facing.

“We heard time and time again that people are worried about the cost of living, they’re worried about the price of petrol, they’re worried about not being able to afford their weekly shop.

“Instead of tackling those issues, the Government have turned in on themselves and are trying to score cheap political points with the Labour Party.

“I hope that Tory MPs reflect on that now and finally remove their deceitful, dishonest leader that, quite frankly, treats this country with nothing but contempt.”

Boris Johnson has told Oliver Dowden he “completely” understands his disappointment with the by-election results.

Writing to Mr Dowden following his resignation as Tory Party chairman, Mr Johnson said: “Thank you for your letter and I am sad to see you leave Government.

“As Minister for the Cabinet Office, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, it has been a pleasure to work alongside you for the last three years.

“In each of those roles you have given your best and focused on delivering for the British people.

“Whilst I completely understand your disappointment with the by-election results, this Government was elected with a historic mandate just over two years ago to unite and level up. I look forward to continuing to work together on that.”

Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Tory party suffered a double blow as the Conservatives lost in two crunch by-elections (Getty Images and PA)
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