The Tories lost two key by-elections on the same night, with Labor taking Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats overturning a majority of more than 24,000 to snatch Tiverton and Honiton, putting enormous political pressure on Boris Johnson.
The result in Tiverton and Honiton, where Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord beat the Tories’ Helen Hurford by 6,144 votes to take a constituency that has been Conservative in its various guises for over a century, will particularly scare Tory MPs .
It is believed to be the largest numerical majority ever overturned in a by-election, although there have been higher percentage swings in other seats.
A Labor win in Wakefield, where Simon Lightwood secured a 4,925 majority over the Tories’ Nadeem Ahmed, was more expected given Labor had always held the seat before the 2019 election, but nonetheless shows traction for Keir Starmer in the seats of the “red wall”.
The by-elections were called after the respective MPs resigned in disgrace. Imran Ahmad Khan resigned in Wakefield after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager, while Neil Parish resigned in Tiverton and Honiton after watching pornography in the Commons.
Johnson is in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, before traveling to the G7 and NATO summits in Germany and Spain, keeping him out of the country for next week. But in his absence, the double defeat could prompt Tory backbenchers to try to reinvigorate efforts to oust him.
Following this month’s confidence vote in which 148 Tory MPs sought to impeach Johnson, with 211 backing him, under party rules he is shielded from a similar challenge for a year. However, these rules can be changed.
The result is another landmark for the Lib Dems, who took the conservative seat of equally rural and Brexit-friendly North Shropshire in a by-election in December, overthrowing a Tory majority of nearly 23,000 for win after former MP Owen Paterson resigned following a lobbying scandal. .
It followed a Lib Dems victory in June last year in Chesham and Amersham, a suburban ring constituency in northwest London, raising concerns among Tory MPs that dozens of seats similar to the “blue wall” could fall amid widespread dislike for Johnson among more liberal Tory voters.
The feeling that Johnson is no longer an electoral asset, coupled with the Downing Street party controversies that prompted the initial vote of confidence, could lead Tory MPs to turn decisively against the Prime Minister, although a new challenge is considered unlikely before. autumn.