Blow for Boris

Chair quits as Tories crushed in by-elections

Oliver Dowden: ‘not right for me to remain in office’

Prime minister Boris Johnson was delivered a bruising blow this morning with two resounding by-election defeats that prompted the resignation of Conservative Party chair Oliver Dowden.

The Liberal Democrats won the Tiverton and Honiton seat in Devon with a huge swing of 30% – the biggest by-election victory the country has seen – while Labour took Wakefield with a swing of 12.7%.

The Prime Minister, who is in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, has refused to step down despite the results being a clear condemnation of his leadership.

In his letter to Mr Johnson, Mr Dowden said the outcomes of 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.”

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish resigned after it emerged he’d been watching pornography in the House of Commons chamber.

The seat has been held by the Conservatives since the 1920s and the party’s candidate Richard Foord won by more than 24,000 three years ago. No majority that big has ever been overturned at a by-election until today.

The Lib Dems were third in this seat in 2019 – but have now secured their third by-election gain of this parliament.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The Liberal Democrats have made political history with this stunning win. “

He said the result should be a “wake-up call” to Conservative MPs and one they “can’t afford to ignore”.

Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for 18 months for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

Labour will see its majority of nearly 5,000 for candidate Simon Lightwood as evidence that the party can take back seats that it lost in 2019.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the result shows that the country has “lost confidence in the Tories.

“This result is a clear judgement on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas,” he said.

Wakefield result

  • Simon Lightwood (Lab) 13,166 (47.94%, +8.13%)
  • Nadeem Ahmed (Con) 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%)
  • Lab maj 4,925 (17.93%)
  • 12.69% swing Con to Lab
  • Electorate 69,601; Turnout 27,466 (39.46%)
  • 2019 Con maj 3,358

Tiverton result

  • Richard Foord (LD) 22,537 (52.91%, +38.14%)
  • Helen Hurford (Con) 16,393 (38.49%, -21.72%)
  • Liz Pole (Lab) 1,562 (3.67%, -15.88%)
  • Gill Westcott (Green) 1,064 (2.50%, -1.34%)

  • Lib Dem maj 6,144 (14.43%)
  • 29.93% swing Con to LD
  • Electorate 81,661; Turnout 42,591 (52.16%)
  • 2019 Con maj 24,239

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