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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

UK voters reject Conservatives in two snap elections, blow to Boris Johnson

LONDON ( Associated Press) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a double whammy when voters rejected his Conservative Party in two snap parliamentary elections dominated by questions about his leadership and ethics.

He was further offended when the party chairman resigned after the results were released early Friday morning, saying the Conservatives “can’t do business as usual” and the former party leader said the country needed “new leadership.” “.

READ MORE: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser resigns

The centrist Liberal Democrats toppled the vast majority of the Conservatives and won seats in the rural southwest of England at Tiverton and Honiton, while the main opposition Labor Party reclaimed Wakefield in the north of England from Tory Johnson.

Contests sparked by the resignation of sex-affected Conservative MPs have given voters the opportunity to hand down their verdict on the prime minister just weeks after 41 percent of his own MPs voted to fire him.

“The people of Tiverton and Honiton have voted for the UK,” said newly elected Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord. “They sent a loud and clear signal: Boris Johnson has to go, and go now.”

A defeat in any of the constituencies would be bad luck for the prime minister’s party. The loss of both heightens nervousness among restive conservatives, who are already worried that the energetic but volatile and divisive Johnson is no longer an electoral asset.

Party chairman Oliver Dowden resigned, saying “our supporters are saddened and disappointed by recent events and I share their feelings.”

“We cannot continue to do business as usual,” said Dowden, a formerly staunch Johnson supporter.

“I, as always, will remain loyal to the Conservative Party,” he said, without expressing his approval of Johnson.

Former Conservative leader Michael Howard, who, like Johnson, was a strong supporter of Britain’s exit from the European Union, called on the party to remove him as leader.

“The parties and, more importantly, the country will be better off under new leadership,” Howard told the BBC.

The prime minister was 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) away at the Commonwealth summit in Rwanda when the drama unfolded.

The election test comes as Britain faces its worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, with Russia’s war in Ukraine cutting supplies of energy and basic foodstuffs at a time of soaring consumer demand as the coronavirus pandemic recedes.

“I’m not going to pretend that these are brilliant results,” Johnson said at a press conference in Kigali. “We must listen, we must learn. … When people are having a hard time, they send messages to politicians, and politicians should respond.”

Johnson won an overwhelming majority in the 2019 general election, retaining traditional Conservative voters – the rich, elderly and concentrated in the South of England – and winning new ones in poorer, post-industrial northern cities where many residents have felt for decades ignored by governments.

Thursday’s election brought defeat on both fronts. Rural Tiverton and Honiton have voted Conservative for generations, while Wakefield is the northern constituency that the Tories won in 2019 from Labour.

A widely anticipated victory for Labor in Wakefield, whose previous Conservative legislator resigned after being convicted of sexual assault, is a boost for the party, which has been out of action nationally since 2010.

Labor leader Keir Starmer said it showed the party was “on the side of the working people again, getting seats where it used to lose and ready to come into government”.

Opinion pollsters said the Tiverton and Honiton race was tight, but the Liberal Democrats overturned a Conservative majority of 24,000 votes to win by over 6,000 votes. The election was called when the Conservative district MP resigned after being caught watching pornography in the House of Commons.

Even with defeats that have undermined his already shaky credibility among his own legislators, Johnson, his party has an overwhelming majority in Parliament. But conservatives are increasingly concerned that the qualities that enabled them to make Johnson their leader, including a populist ability to break the rules and avoid punishment, may now become a hindrance.

Ethics allegations have plagued the prime minister for months, culminating in a scandal over parties being held at government buildings while millions of others have been banned from meeting friends and family during the coronavirus lockdown.

READ MORE: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson issues no-confidence vote amid scandals

Johnson was one of 83 people fined by police for attending parties, making him the first prime minister to break the law while in office. A public official’s report on the Patigate scandal said Johnson should be held accountable for “mistakes in leadership and judgment” that have created a culture of rule-breaking in government.

He survived a vote of no confidence in his own party this month but remained weakened after 41 percent of conservative lawmakers voted to remove him.

According to party rules, Johnson cannot participate in the second ballot for a year, but Friday’s defeat will increase pressure to change this provision.

“These are pretty terrible results,” said Conservative MP Jeffrey Clifton-Brown, a senior member of the committee that oversees votes of no confidence in the party.

“There will be serious discussions in the next few days and weeks, after which we will all have to make difficult decisions,” he said.

Johnson will also face an investigation into parliamentary ethics, which could conclude that he deliberately misled parliament over “patigate” – traditionally a resignation crime.

Conservative MP Roger Gale, a longtime critic of Johnson, repeated his calls for the prime minister to step down.

“The soul of our party is at stake,” he said.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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