By-elections: Live updates on Tories after bad night for Boris Johnson

By-elections: Live updates on Tories after bad night for Boris Johnson


BY-ELECTIONS LIVE: Latest updates as Boris Johnson vows to stay on but Keir Starmer says Conservatives are ‘out of ideas’ after double defeat in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton as Tory peer warns party is ‘sleepwalking to defeat’

Live updates from MailOnline today after Oliver Dowden resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party following two by-election defeats: 

Host commentator

Priti Patel said it is ‘important and right’ the Conservatives have a ‘moment of reflection’ following the by-election results.

The Home Secretary told LBC: ‘It’s right that we listen to the voters from both of those constituencies, it’s right that we carry on with our service to them, but also recognise the issues that they themselves are raising and have raised on the doorstep, I went to both by-elections too, and we get on with the job.’

Asked if she thought there would be more resignations, after Oliver Dowden stood down as Tory Party chairman, she said: ‘I don’t, because, as I’ve said, you know, to govern is hard, and to govern we make choices and decisions, and we are working night and day, I can give you that assurance… focusing on these big issues.’

Boris Johnson’s authority has suffered a double blow as the Tories suffered humiliating defeats in two parliamentary by-elections. Here is a Q&A from the PA news agency:

– What happened?

The contests in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and Tiverton and Honiton, Devon were triggered by Conservative MPs resigning in disgrace.

Wakefield’s Imran Ahmad Khan quit as an MP after being convicted of sexual assault, a crime for which he received an 18-month jail term.

Neil Parish quit his seat after being caught watching pornography in the House of Commons. He initially claimed to have been looking for a website about tractors.

– So what were the results?

Wakefield was won by the Tories in 2019 with a majority of 3,358 after being a Labour seat since the 1930s – albeit one that had become fairly marginal – so Simon Lightwood’s 4,925 vote victory is not a seismic shock.

But Tiverton and Honiton had been won with a majority of more than 24,000 – Mr Parish had more than 60% of the vote – so the victory for the Liberal Democrats’ Richard Foord does represent a political earthquake.

He took the seat with a majority of 6,144.

– What does it mean for Boris Johnson?

The double by-election defeat came less than three weeks after 41% of his own MPs voted to get rid of him as Tory leader and, ultimately, Prime Minister in the wake of concerns over the partygate row and economic policies.

Although he survived the confidence vote – 211 Tory MPs backed him, with 148 saying they had lost faith – his leadership was damaged.

For many Tory MPs, Mr Johnson’s key appeal is his ability to win elections by bringing in voters who may never have backed the Conservatives before.

The loss of two very different constituencies – one in the Red Wall, one in a rural Conservative heartland – will cause some of his MPs to wonder if the Johnsonian electoral magic has worn off.

The Lib Dems gleefully pointed out that the 24,239 Conservative majority in Tiverton and Honiton was bigger than the combined majorities of the 26 most marginal Conservative seats at the last election.

– What about the winners?

For Sir Keir Starmer, the Wakefield win is a boost after a difficult few weeks for his leadership amid anonymous shadow cabinet complaints about him being ‘boring’, the lingering threat of Durham Police’s investigation into the beer and curry he consumed on the campaign trail during lockdown and Labour divisions over supporting striking rail workers.

Labour needs to win back seats in northern England if it is to have any chance of victory in the next general election, so the Wakefield success will provide some encouragement – although there remains a long way to go.

For the Liberal Democrats, Mr Foord’s success completes a hat-trick of stunning by-election victories following wins in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has set his sights on knocking more bricks out of the ‘Blue Wall’ of Tory seats in southern England where his party is now the main challenger.

– So, what next?

Boris Johnson is out of the country at international summits in Rwanda, Germany and Spain over the coming days.

This will severely restrict his ability to reassure wavering Tory MPs who may have renewed doubts about his leadership – and to snuff out any new plots against him that emerge.

But he will seek to play down the impact of the by-elections, pointing out that governing parties are often hit by protest votes.

Sir Keir Starmer said the win in Wakefield was a ‘huge result for the Labour Party’.

He told reporters in Ossett: ‘This puts us now absolutely on track for a Labour government, which is absolutely coming.’

Saying that 12.69 per cent was a ‘significant’ swing towards Labour, Sir Keir said: ‘That tells you that the next government is going to be a Labour government, and the sooner the better – because the country voted yesterday in both by-elections, no confidence in this out-of-touch, out-of-ideas Government.

‘This is a historic by-election as far as we’re concerned.’

Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said Oliver Dowden’s resignation was ‘honourable’.

Sharing a copy of Mr Dowden’s letter of resignation to the Prime Minister, he tweeted simply: ‘Honourable.’

Sir Keir Starmer met Labour campaigners at Ossett Market this morning, alongside newly-elected Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood.

The Labour leader told supporters: ‘What a judgment this is on the Tories and Boris Johnson – out of touch, out of ideas, and if they had any decency they would get out the way for the sake of the country.

‘When we do form that next Labour government, and we’re going to do it, Wakefield will go down as the birthplace of that.’

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has said he will discuss the by-election defeats at a Conservative AGM (Annual General Meeting) this evening and expects to make ‘difficult decisions’.

The treasurer of the 1922 committee said the Conservatives will then have ‘some difficult decisions to make, no doubt’ on how to move forward.

The MP for The Cotswolds told the BBC’s Today programme that MPs would in the coming days decide whether steps should be taken to oust Boris Johnson.

Speaking on a phone line, Mr Clifton-Brown said: ‘I’m not going to come on out this morning and speculate on behalf of my colleagues as to whether we should or shouldn’t change the rules. Clearly what’s going to happen over the next few days is the Prime Minister is going to set out to both his Cabinet and with us as Members of Parliament.’

The line then broke off momentarily before he added: ‘We will then in the parliamentary party have to make a judgment as to whether we think that is a satisfactory explanation or whether we should actually take steps to have a new Prime Minister.’

The Tory grandee, who voted against Mr Johnson in the confidence vote over his leadership, added: ‘I’ve got an AGM tonight, I will consider what my members say, I will then discuss this matter with my colleagues, we will hear what the Prime Minister says and then we will have to make some difficult decisions, no doubt.’

Former Conservative MP and minister Rory Stewart said Oliver Dowden’s resignation ‘feels like the beginning of the end’ for Boris Johnson.

Sharing a copy of Mr Dowden’s resignation letter, he tweeted: ‘A devastating resignation for Boris Johnson because it comes from one of his earliest and most passionate supporters, who backed many of his cultural fights, and risked his reputation defending him for years. This feels like the beginning of the end.’

Prime Minister 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.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Prime Minister told her the Government is ‘cracking on with task’ after the double by-election defeats.

Asked what Boris Johnson said to her following the results, she told LBC: ‘The fact of the matter is that we’re cracking on with the task.’

Pressed on what the PM said, she said: ‘Yes, exactly that, absolutely, that we are carrying on, working to grow our economy and address the cost of living… and providing the leadership that we need in challenging times. We do that collectively, we really do as one Government working together.’

Tory grandee Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said there is ‘no doubt’ it would be ‘difficult to hold’ his Conservative seat if there were a by-election in his constituency now.

Speaking to BBC R4’s Today programme, the MP for the Cotswolds and treasurer of the 1922 committee said: ‘I think factually if I were to run under a bus today it would be difficult to hold my seat, there’s no doubt about that.

‘I feel very sorry for all our volunteers and indeed my colleagues, and indeed myself, who work very hard in these by-elections, but were simply defeated by the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said his party’s by-election victory in Wakefield shows the Conservatives are ‘out of touch, out of ideas and if they had any decency they would get out of the way for the sake of the country’.

Boris Johnson vows to ‘keep going’ despite Tory wipeout in by-elections

Boris Johnson vowed to ‘keep going’ today despite Tory chair Oliver Dowden dramatically quitting after the party suffered a double by-election pummelling.

The Prime Minister said he would ‘listen’ after seismic results in Tiverton and Wakefield, but tried to play down the huge blows as a difficult ‘patch’ for the government. Read more from MailOnline’s political team here:

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.’

Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said Boris Johnson had ‘trashed’ the reputation of the Conservative Party. He said the PM was choosing to ‘hang onto the door handle at No 10’ but ‘it can’t go on forever and it certainly won’t go on until the next general election’.

Asked if he saw Oliver Dowden’s resignation as a trigger for more expressions of discontent from the Cabinet, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘It is possible that that may happen but it is up to my colleagues in the Cabinet to decide whether they can go on supporting a Prime Minister who, frankly, has trashed the reputation of the Conservative Party, my party, for honesty, for decency, for integrity and for compassion.’

Sir Roger said the Tories were ‘spoilt for choice’ for new leaders. Asked who he would like to see in Mr Johnson’s place, he said: ‘I’m not playing that game. The media has said over and over again the problem is there isn’t an obvious alternative. The problem is, actually, we’re spoilt for choice.

There are several people who would make very good prime ministers within the party and one of those will emerge between now and the next general election and lead us into the next general election, which I trust we shall win.’

In Wakefield, Simon Lightwood was elected with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7 per cent from the Tories to Labour. Here are some photos from the night:

A dramatic swing of almost 30 per cent from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats saw Richard Foord secure a majority of 6,144 in Tiverton and Honiton.

Here are some photographs from the night showing what happened at the count:

New Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood has said ‘the next Labour government has been born in this room tonight’.

In his speech after being declared the winner of the West Yorkshire by-election, he said: ‘Tonight, the people of Wakefield have spoken on behalf of the British people. They have said unreservedly: ‘Boris Johnson, your contempt for this country is no longer tolerated’.

‘It’s not acceptable that a quarter of our children in Wakefield live in poverty, it’s not acceptable that hundreds of people leave A&E every month without being treated because of record NHS waiting times, and it’s not acceptable that convictions for crimes like robbery have fallen by almost half in the past five years.

‘People in Wakefield and across the country are sick of the deceit and dishonesty of this Government.’

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.

The shadow transport secretary 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 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.’

Louise Haigh has said the result in Wakefield has put Labour ‘on the path to that general election victory’.

The shadow transport secretary said the result was a ‘massive rejection’ of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the ‘lack of agenda of his Tory government’.

She told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think this clearly shows that we are building back those votes and helping regain the trust of those voters that we lost in 2019. But, clearly, we need to do much more than win the voters that we lost then. I think Wakefield demonstrates that we are winning back, and winning for the first time, people who’ve voted Tory for a very long time.

‘For the first time that we’ve been in opposition, we have a leader that people in places like Wakefield can look to and think ‘that’s the kind of person I want to lead this country, that I can trust him as prime minister, I can trust him running the economy’. As I say, I think Wakefield puts us firmly on the path to winning the next general election.’

Tory peer Lord Barwell said the Tiverton and Honiton result was ‘catastrophic’ for the Tories.

He told Sky News: ‘It’s one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. It’s a strongly Leave-supporting constituency.

‘So, for the Liberal Democrats to be winning there, and winning comfortably, it means that there’s a whole swathe of seats across the south of the country that are vulnerable.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey told LBC: ‘We’ve just had the biggest by-election victory here in Devon. No majority of this size has ever been overturned in a by-election, so I’m pretty chipper today.

‘We are smiling here and the message from Tiverton and Honiton, the people here in Devon, is that Boris Johnson must go. I think they’ve spoken for the whole of the British people and it really is time he left.’

He added that the country was ‘in chaos’ under Mr Johnson’s leadership and the Conservatives appeared to have no plan.

The Liberal Democrats had fronted a ‘positive’ campaign in the constituency with policies that had ‘energised’ people while the current Government falters, he said. ‘I think it speaks on behalf of people – Boris Johnson really must be pushed out,’ Sir Ed said.

Labour gain from Conservative.

Simon Lightwood (Lab) 13,166 (47.94%, +8.13%)

Nadeem Ahmed (C) 8,241 (30.00%, -17.26%)

Akef Akbar (Ind) 2,090 (7.61%, +6.60%)

David Herdson (Yorkshire) 1,182 (4.30%, +2.38%)

Ashley Routh (Green) 587 (2.14%)

Chris Walsh (Reform) 513 (1.87%)

Jamie Needle (LD) 508 (1.85%, -2.09%)

Ashlea Simon (Britain 1st) 311 (1.13%)

Mick Dodgson (FA) 187 (0.68%)

Sir Archibald Stanton Earl ‘Eaton (Loony) 171 (0.62%)

Paul Bickerdike (CPA) 144 (0.52%)

Therese Hirst (Eng Dem) 135 (0.49%)

Jordan Gaskell (UKIP) 124 (0.45%)

Christopher Jones (NIP) 84 (0.31%)

Jayda Fransen (Ind) 23 (0.08%)

Lab maj 4,925 (17.93%)

12.69% swing C to Lab

Electorate 69,601; Turnout 27,466 (39.46%, -24.69%)

2019: C maj 3,358 (7.46%) – Turnout 45,027 (64.15%) Ahmad-Khan (C) 21,283 (47.27%); Creagh (Lab) 17,925 (39.81%); Wiltshire (Brexit) 2,725 (6.05%); Needle (LD) 1,772 (3.94%); Kett (Yorkshire) 868 (1.93%); Whyte (Ind) 454 (1.01%)

Liberal Democrat gain from Conservatives.

Richard Foord (LD) 22,537 (52.91%, +38.14%)

Helen Hurford (C) 16,393 (38.49%, -21.72%)

Liz Pole (Lab) 1,562 (3.67%, -15.88%)

Gill Westcott (Green) 1,064 (2.50%, -1.34%)

Andy Foan (Reform) 481 (1.13%)

Ben Walker (UKIP) 241 (0.57%, -1.06%)

Jordan Donoghue-Morgan (Heritage) 167 (0.39%)

Frankie Rufolo (FB) 146 (0.34%)

LD maj 6,144 (14.43%)

29.93% swing C to LD

Electorate 81,661; Turnout 42,591 (52.16%, -19.71%)

2019: C maj 24,239 (40.66%) – Turnout 59,613 (71.86%)

Parish (C) 35,893 (60.21%); Pole (Lab) 11,654 (19.55%); Timperley (LD) 8,807 (14.77%); Reed (Green) 2,291 (3.84%); Dennis (UKIP) 968 (1.62%)

Tory peer Lord Barwell, who was Theresa May’s chief of staff in No 10, said if the Conservative Party carries on as it is, it is ‘sleepwalking to a defeat at the next election’.

He told Sky News he was ‘very pleased’ someone senior in the party seemed to have ‘finally’ recognised this and done something about it, as Oliver Dowden resigned as Tory chairman.

He said Boris Johnson’s authority is ‘very significantly diminished’ and ‘draining away’. Lord Barwell said Cabinet ministers have got to ask themselves what it does to their own reputations if they continue to stand by him.

‘The evidence is mounting up that he has lost the support of the public that he once had, that it looks extraordinarily unlikely that he’s going to be able to win that back,’ he said. ‘So, if they allow him to carry on, then they’re going to allow him to lead the Conservative Party to a significant defeat at the next election.’

The shadow transport secretary has said it is ‘right’ that Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden has resigned, but said she hoped Prime Minister Boris Johnson would ‘take his fair share of responsibility’.

Louise Haigh told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think it’s right, but I think, once again, everybody else seems to have to take responsibility and resign other than the main man, and I would have hoped that Boris Johnson would take his fair share of responsibility of this devastating blow of these two by-election losses.

‘But, knowing the measure of the man as I do, I very much doubt he will.’

Boris Johnson 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.’

Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats.

Mr Dowden, who was due to appear on the morning media round for the Government today, said in his letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that 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.’

Labour needed a much swing of just 3.8 percentage points to take Wakefield from the Conservatives.

They won the seat on a swing of 12.7 points – coincidentally, exactly the same size swing Labour achieved the last time it won a seat from the Tories at a by-election, in Corby in 2012.

A swing of this size is the sort needed by Labour at the next general election to be in with a chance of an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons.

It is also the size of swing that would, were it repeated uniformly at the general election on the current parliamentary boundaries, spell defeat for the likes of former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith (in Chingford & Woodford Green), Environment Secretary George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth), Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield) and the Prime Minister himself, Boris Johnson (Uxbridge & South Ruislip).

A dramatic swing of almost 30 per cent from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats saw Richard Foord secure a majority of 6,144 in Tiverton and Honiton.

The Liberal Democrats had 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.

In the event they managed a swing of 29.9 points: large enough to rank as the sixth biggest swing against a government since 1945 in a by-election that saw a change in both party and MP.

The biggest swing of this kind took place in July 1993 at the Christchurch by-election, which was won by the Lib Dems on a 35.4 point swing from the Conservatives.

Close behind is the 34.1 point swing the Lib Dems achieved against the Tories in the North Shropshire by-election in December last year.

All of these top six swings have been achieved either by the Liberal Democrats or its predecessor, the Liberal Party.

Were the swing at Tiverton & Honiton repeated uniformly at the next general election, based on the current parliamentary boundaries the outcome would see many Conservatives lose their seats, including Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab (in Esher & Walton), former health secretary Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey) and former prime minister Theresa May (Maidenhead).

The Conservatives’ defeat at the polls in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield is the first time in more than 30 years that a government has lost two by-elections on the same day.

The previous occasion was on November 7 1991, when the Conservative government of John Major lost the seat of Langbaurgh in Cleveland to Labour and also Kincardine & Deeside in east Scotland to the Liberal Democrats.

A double by-election loss for a government is so rare in British politics that it has now happened only seven times since the Second World War.

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 Labour reclaimed Wakefield.

The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41 pre cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

A dramatic swing of almost 30 per cent from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats saw Richard Foord secure a majority of 6,144 in Tiverton and Honiton.

In Wakefield, Simon Lightwood was elected with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7 per cent from the Tories to Labour.

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

Good morning and welcome to MailOnline’s liveblog, as we bring you reaction to the news that Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats. Stay with us throughout today for live updates.

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