By-election fall-out

Senior Tories plot new move to oust Johnson

Boris Johnson
Senior Tories feel Boris Johnson is losing his grip on the party

Senior Conservatives are plotting another attempt to remove Boris Johnson from office following two brutal by-election defeats that have left the party on course for defeat at the next general election.

Voters in normally loyal seat of Tiverton & Honiton in Devon delivered the harshest indictment of Mr Johnson’s leadership.

The Tories’ majority of 24,239 was the biggest lead ever to be overturned at a by-election, as the LibDems candidate became the first non-Tory elected in the seat since the 1920s. Labour’s victory in Wakefield was the first tangible crack in Mr Johnson’s new stronghold in the north of England.

The immediate resignation of party chair Oliver Dowden in a letter saying someone had to “take responsibility” for a disastrous showing, has forced a number of senior figures to believe Mr Johnson cannot continue in office.

One minister told The Times: “Oliver clearly saw the writing on the wall and got ahead of it. There’s about 10-15 ministers who everyone knows are opponents of the PM and aren’t going to last beyond the reshuffle. People think some of them will do pre-emptive strikes too.”

Mr Johnson, who has been attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda, continue to reject calls to resign, insisting he wanted to “get on with the job of delivering”.

However, two former Conservative leaders — Lord Hague of Richmond and Lord Howard of Lympne — said cabinet ministers should put pressure on the Prime Minister to resign.

Lord Hague told Times Radio that the Conservatives were “potentially heading towards disaster” with a “tremendous loss of faith among party activists as well as voters”.

Lord Howard told The World at One on BBC Radio 4: “The party and more importantly the country would be better off under new leadership. Members of the cabinet should very carefully consider their positions.”

North East Scotland MP Andrew Bowie, who was Conservative Party vice-chairman from 2019 until last year, has also joined those urging Mr Johnson to quit. He said the results vindicated his decision to vote against the Prime Minister in the confidence vote two weeks ago.

He said: “If the question was put again I would not change my position.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said: “If this is not a wake-up call to the Conservative Party, then it will just prove beyond doubt that they don’t have the interests of any part of the UK in mind or at heart.”

By-election results and reaction

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