When is the Wakefield by-election, why was it called and will it be fatal for Boris Johnson's premiership?

Voters will go to the polls in two by-elections later this month with Boris Johnson’s premiership hanging by a thread.

Heavy defeat in Wakefield – which was a major scalp in 2019 in the so-called Red Wall – would lead to massive pressure on the Prime Minister.

When is the Wakefield by-election?

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The by-election takes place on June 23 and was sparked by former Tory incumbent Imran Ahmad Khanbeing found guilty of sexually assaulting a boy. A poll at the weekend suggested the Tories could lose the by-election by as much as 20 points in an indication the revelations about Downing Street lockdown-busting gatherings have hit the party’s popularity in a battleground seat.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral, London. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA

The Wakefield constituency polling by JL Partners and reported in The Sunday Times is likely to make for anxious reading for Tory campaigners, with the company putting Labour on 48 points compared with 28 points for Mr Johnson’s outfit – a 19 point slip on the winning Tory performance two-and-a-half years ago.

The poll findings come amid reports the threshold for a no-confidence vote might have been reached, with suggestions a leadership test could be coming as soon as Wednesday.

Who is standing in the by-election?

Labour’s candidate is Simon Lightwood who has told supporters this was “a by-election that could not only deliver a fresh start for Wakefield but also help to shape the country’s future”.

The Tories have selected Wakefield councillor Nadeem Ahmed to defend the 3,358 majority the party secured in 2019.

When nominations closed last week there were 15 candidates, including Mr Lightwood and Mr Ahmed.

The others are: Akef Akbar (Independent); Paul Bickerdike (Christian Peoples Alliance); Mick Dodgson (Freedom Alliance); Sir Archibald Stanton Earl ‘Eaton (Monster Raving Loony); Jayda Fransen (Independent); Jordan Gaskell (Ukip); David Herdson (Yorkshire Party); Therese Hirst (English Democrat); Christopher Jones (Northern Independence); Jamie Needle (Liberal Democrats); Ashley Routh (Green); Ashlea Simon (Britain First); Chris Walsh (Reform UK)

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When is the Tiverton and Honiton by-election?

The Tiverton and Honiton by-election happens on the same day as Wakefield and could pile yet more pressure on the Prime Minister. That by-election was called after Tory MP Neil Parish resigned over his viewing of pornography in the Commons.

What about partygate?

Both by-elections are being held in the shadow of the partygate revelations, with mounting anger within the Conservative party and the prospect of a no-confidence vote against Boris Johnson within days.

Last month, an investigation published by senior civil servant Sue Gray laid bare the details of a host of Covid rule-breaching gatherings held in No 10 and Whitehall.

The inquiry found that raucous parties had taken place, with staff throwing up, getting into altercations and being rude to security staff.

The Prime Minister was found to have attended a number of leaving dos for aides, giving speeches and joining in the drinking of alcohol, despite him at the same time telling the public not to see sick and dying loved ones in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

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The publication of Ms Gray’s findings have accelerated calls for Mr Johnson to resign, with almost 30 Tory MPs having called for him to quit and more publicly voicing criticisms.

Under Conservative Party rules, if 54 letters of no confidence in his premiership are submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, then a leadership vote will be held.

It is thought as many as 67 letters had gone in which, if correct, would mean the threshold has been reached. The rebels would need 180 voters to remove the Prime Minister from power during the secret poll, otherwise affording him, by the current rules, a year’s stay of execution before another bid to oust him can be held.

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