Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has suffered two parliamentary by-election defeats, dealing a big blow to the leadership of embattled prime minister Boris Johnson and prompting the resignation of the party chairman.
The Tories lost the South West seat of Tiverton and Honiton to the centrist Liberal Democrats on Thursday, while the main opposition Labour party regained the West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield in northern England.
The Liberal Democrats secured their victory in Tiverton and Honiton by overturning a 24,000 Tory majority with a 30% swing and by more than 6,000 votes.
The Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, said the victory in Wakefield, where the opposition won a solid 48 percent of the vote, was “a clear judgment on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas.”
Following the defeats and in an immediate sign of the political fallout, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden handed in his resignation to Johnson and stressed that things had to change in the party.
“Yesterday’s parliamentary 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,” Dowden said in the resignation letter to the British premier.
“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.”
My letter of resignation to the Prime Minister. pic.twitter.com/xd5MtM2o3n— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) June 24, 2022
Johnson said on Friday that he would listen to voters, in particular to the difficulties people are facing over the cost of living crisis but pledged to “keep going.”
Earlier in the month, the British premier managed to win the ruling party’s vote of confidence after the "Partygate" scandal dealt a huge blow to public trust in his leadership.
Johnson survived a no-confidence vote after winning 59 percent of the vote, with 211 Tory MPs voting for his premiership while 148 voted against it.
The British prime minister, who scored a sweeping election victory in 2019, has been under increasing pressure after he and his staff held alcohol-fueled parties in his Downing Street office and residence when the whole country was under lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson, however, claimed that he was absent from most of the events and denied ever lying to the parliament.