From north to south, British Prime Minister Johnson faces defeat in the by-election

From north to south, British Prime Minister Johnson faces defeat in the by-election

By Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill

TIVERTON/WAKEFIELD, England (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could lose two parliamentary seats this week that once highlighted his broad appeal, showing his waning popularity that could spur his party to find a way to oust him.

His Conservative Party is contesting two by-elections on Thursday: one in Tiverton and Honiton, a deeply conservative corner of Devon in south-west England, and another in the former industrial area of ​​Wakefield in northern England, which voted for his party for the first time in 90 years in 2019 .

A loss in both places could further dent Johnson’s reputation as a vote-winner, and lawmakers fearing for their future are trying to crack down on him, though granting him a reprieve by calling and losing a vote of confidence in him earlier this month.

Johnson secured the largest Conservative majority in three decades in the 2019 national election, turning conventional British politics on its head and winning in both the Conservatives’ traditional southern heartland and industrial areas in central and northern England.

But now support for the party is crumbling on both fronts and could prompt some Conservative lawmakers to seek to shorten the 12-month grace period between appeals of confidence votes. About 41% of Johnson’s MPs voted to remove him this month.

The by-election was sparked by high-profile resignations from Conservative lawmakers – one who admitted to having watched porn in Parliament and another found guilty of sexually abusing a teenager.

In the rural market town of Tiverton, Jenny Kane, 72, a part-time yoga teacher, said she had voted Conservative but would not do so now because of unresolved tensions with the European Union and the “Partygate” when Johnson attended lockdown. Breaking parties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t think he did Brexit at all,” she told Reuters. “Partygate is the last straw. I’m disgusted.” Kane said she would vote for the centrist, pro-EU Liberal Democrats instead.

Reuters spoke to at least 30 people at both sites and asked them the same questions about policy areas. While voters in Devon focused on Partygate, the government’s deportation policy in Rwanda and Brexit, they were more focused on Wakefield’s cost-of-living crisis.


Tiverton has voted Conservative in every election for nearly a century, and in 2019 the party won a majority of nearly 25,000 votes.

“I would have voted Conservative if it hadn’t been for the situation with the immigration flights to Rwanda. It made a world of difference for me and my husband,” said Lizzie Bowman, 58, describing it as “unscrupulous behavior.”

Several voters in Tiverton who voted for the Conservatives indicated that they most likely would not even vote, while those opposed to the Conservatives tactically voted for the option most likely to remove them.

While there is little reliable polling in Tiverton and Wakefield, bookmakers say the Conservatives are likely to lose both seats.

In Wakefield, a town about four hours’ drive north of London, voters said the government must do more to help people cope with the highest inflation in three decades.

Barbara Lawson, a 54-year-old shopkeeper who voted for the Conservatives in 2019 but may now vote for the main opposition Labor Party, said she doesn’t fully understand the government on Brexit or the Rwandan deportation strategy.

Lawson said the rising cost of living meant her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter reduced their spending on groceries and struggled to move from their two-bedroom apartment to a larger location, even though both parents worked full-time.

Lawson said she knows people who have started using food banks and friends who said they are worried they will have to stop using their cars because of rising gas prices.

“People’s concerns here are very commonplace,” she said. “Even people with good jobs are suffering at the moment.”

But one aspect that works in Johnson’s favor could be a near-unanimous lack of enthusiasm for Labor leader Keir Starmer.

Geoff Hook, 57, who works in arts education, said he recently resigned from Labor after almost four decades because he felt he no longer understood what it stood for.

“Workers seem to have no direction right now,” he said. “Starmer doesn’t seem to have a lot of personality, so he struggles to connect with people.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Alison Williams)

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