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Boris Johnson says he will ‘keep going’ after double byelection loss and Oliver Dowden resignation – UK politics live


Johnson says he will ‘listen’ to voters but ‘keep going’ after historic byelection defeats

PM Media has just snapped this.

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

Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, told BBC Breakfast that the Wakefield election result was beyond her wildest dreams. She said:

We were obviously hoping for victory last night in Wakefield, but the result went beyond our wildest dreams.

It was a higher turnout than we expected, a much bigger swing, and a much bigger vote share as well, which went far beyond any that we’ve achieved for several general elections in a row now.

I think there was a kind of narrative about Wakefield that it was a safe Labour seat that just happened to go blue in 2019, but, actually, it’s been quite a marginal seat for several general elections in a row.

This is one of the biggest majorities that Labour has returned for almost 20 years. So, we are thoroughly delighted with the trust that the people of Wakefield have placed in Simon Lightwood and Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

Labour supporters celebrating the result at the Wakefield count.
Labour supporters celebrating the result at the Wakefield count. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Oliver Dowden had been due to do the morning broadcast interview round on behalf of the government. But he not not turn up for a scheduled interview with Sky News and, on the Today programme a few minutes ago, the presenter Mishal Husain suggested she did not expect him to turn up there either.

This suggests that, although Dowden’s resignation letter contained implied criticism of Boris Johnson, he has not gone fully rogue. No 10 may not want him on the airwaves now, but he would be perfectly free to give interviews if he wanted to. He may be holding back because he does not want to say any more than what he said in his letter.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, told LBC that the lesson from the Tiverton and Honiton byelection was that Boris Johnson should go. He said:

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 …

I think [the result] speaks on behalf of people – Boris Johnson really must be pushed out.

Johnson suggests cost of living crisis to blame for Tory election defeats

This is what Boris Johnson told broadcasters in Kigali this morning about the byelection defeats. He is in Rwanda for the Commonwealth summit.

Johnson implied that the cost of living crisis was to blame for what happened, not his own conduct or leadership. He said:

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.

Johnson also thanked Oliver Dowden for his work as Conservative co-chair.

This is from James Johnson, a Tory pollster (who worked for Theresa May in No 10) whose firm JL Partners carried out polling in Wakefield, on who ought to be taking the blame for the byelection defeats.

There is only one person to blame for the Wakefield result.

The main reason that Wakefield’s swing voters chose Labour was “Boris Johnson tried to cover up partygate, and lied to the public”, followed by “Boris Johnson is not in touch with working-class people”. pic.twitter.com/jrSDti39wB

— James Johnson (@jamesjohnson252) June 24, 2022

Johnson says he will ‘listen’ to voters but ‘keep going’ after historic byelection defeats

PM Media has just snapped this.

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

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Conservative MP and treasurer of the backbench 1922 Committee, told the Today programme this morning that he wanted to hear how Boris Johnson responds to the byelection defeats. After that, he would listen to colleague, and local activists, and “some difficult decisions” might need to be taken.

Clifton-Brown voted against Johnson in the recent no confidence vote. The main option open to Tories who want to remove Johnson now is to change the party rules, to allow a second no confidence vote soon (under the current system, Johnson is safe for a year). But since the last one confidence vote took place less than three weeks ago, an imminent repeat seems unlikely.

Rajeev Syal

Rajeev Syal

Boris Johnson will have woken up in Rwanda this morning knowing that 4,000 miles away, he is facing immense pressure for his resignation following two heavy by-election defeats.

His aides are understood to be planning interviews this morning which will seek to respond to the losses in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton as well as Oliver Dowden’s pointed resignation letter.

Before boarding a plane for Kigali on Wednesday night, the prime minister described as “crazy” a suggestion that he should quit if he lost both votes. He said:

Governing parties generally do not win byelections, particularly not in midterm. You know, I’m very hopeful, but you know, there you go.

Asked to confirm he was not considering his future, he replied: “Are you crazy?”

He is due to hold a meeting with Prince Charles at 10am, UK time, his first since the heir to the throne was widely reported as having criticised the UK’s asylum deal with Rwanda.

Johnson will also attend the official opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, alongside Charles, who will open the event.

The Lib Dem votes piling up at the count at Tiverton and Honiton.
The Lib Dem votes piling up at the count at Tiverton and Honiton. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

This is from Gavin Barwell, who was chief of staff in No 10 when Theresa May was PM and who is a frequent critic of Boris Johnson’s. Barwell is right to say that Dowden is the first person to resign from cabinet in whole or in part in protest at Boris Johnson’s conduct over Partygate.

Finally someone in the Cabinet says “Enough is enough”. These by-elections – particularly Tiverton – show the Conservative Party is sleepwalking to defeat at the next election. Seats that have been Conservative for decades are at risk. Time to wake up before it is too late https://t.co/Ggtqud7nTZ

— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) June 24, 2022

The Tiverton and Honiton election result can be described as the worst byelection result in modern times for the party that lost in terms of overall size of the majority overturned (24,239). But psephologists prefer to judge election results by swing (the extent to which voters switched from one party to another). On this measure, the Tiverton and Honiton is not quite the worst for the Tories since the second world war, but it is still dire. Ian Jones from PA Media has the figures.

Results of Wakefield byelection in full

And here are the results of the Wakefield byelection in full.

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%)

Simon Lightwood, the new Labour MP for Wakefield.
Simon Lightwood, the new Labour MP for Wakefield. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Results of Tiverton and Honiton byelection byelection in full

Here are the results of the Tiverton and Honiton byelection in full.

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%)

Richard Foord, the new Lib Dem MP for Tiverton and Honiton.
Richard Foord, the new Lib Dem MP for Tiverton and Honiton. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

Oliver Dowden quits as Tory chair, taking swipe at Johnson’s conduct, after Tories suffer historic byelection defeats

Good morning. The Conservatives have suffered two devastating byelection defeats (which was expected) and a senior Tory has resigned (which was not expected). But it is not the figure most responsible for the party’s plight. Instead, Oliver Dowden has quit from his post as Conservative party co-chair.

Labour was seen as a dead cert to win Wakefield, which had been a Labour seat since the second world war until the 2019 election, but they won with a very healthy swing of almost 13%. But the Tories also lost Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats. On one measure, this is is the worst byelection defeat in modern electoral history, because never before has such a large majority been overturned. The swing from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems was almost 30%.

Here is my colleague Peter Walker’s story about the results.

And here is an extract from Dowden’s resignation letter to the PM.

Yesterday’s parliamentary byelections 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 reference to feeling “distressed and disappointed” by recent events reads like an attack on Boris Johnson’s conduct over Partygate, and there is nothing in the letter expressing support for the PM.

But Dowden’s resignation could turn out to be convenient for Johnson, in line with the way many organisations respond to a calamity by following the age-old principle “junior heads must roll”. Until now he has been loyal to Johnson; is he voluntarily playing the role of scapegoat?

I will be focusing almost exclusively on reaction to the result today.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com





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