LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party was defeated in two parliamentary by-elections on Friday (June 24), a sign of voter discontent after months of scandals and a growing cost-of-living crisis.
The defeats, including one in a previously safe spot, could reignite speculation about Johnson’s future after he survived a move against him by Conservative lawmakers earlier this month.
Johnson has come under heavy pressure to resign after he was fined for breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules following a police investigation into gatherings at his Downing Street offices.
The centrist Liberal Democrat party won the Tiverton and Honiton seat in a deeply conservative part of south-west England by a majority of over 6,000, overthrowing a majority of more than 24,000 won by the Conservatives in 2019.
The Liberal Democrats said it was the largest majority yet to be overturned in a by-election to the UK Parliament, suggesting other Conservative lawmakers could risk losing their seats in the party’s southern heartlands.
“Tonight the people of Tiverton and Honiton spoke for Britain. You sent a message loud and clear: it is time for Boris Johnson to go, and now,” said the winning Liberal Democrat candidate Richard Foord in his victory speech.
“With every day that Boris Johnson stays in office, he brings further shame, chaos and neglect.”
The opposition Labor Party also defeated the Conservatives in the separate parliamentary seat of Wakefield in northern England.
Johnson led the Conservatives to their largest majority in three decades in the 2019 national election and was praised by his party for his ability to win in areas of traditional Labor voting in northern and central England.
However, Wakefield’s loss could indicate that his ability to win again in those areas in the next national election, which is expected in 2024, has also been hurt.
Johnson on Thursday dismissed a suggestion that he could resign if the Conservatives lost both seats, saying it was common for ruling parties to lose midterm elections.
The by-election was sparked by high-profile resignations from Conservative lawmakers – one who admitted to having seen pornography in parliament and another found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager.
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