LABOUR and the Liberal Democrats have beaten the Tories in by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton.
Simon Lightwood was elected in Wakefield with a majority of 4,925, the Liberal Democrats claimed victory for candidate Richard Foord in the Devon seat – which had been held with a majority of more than 24,000 by the Tories in 2019. Tory insiders expected a loss in Wakefield.
The Red Wall West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield was won by the Tories in the 2019 Election, but the loss may not be as bad for Boris as some commentators have suggested.
The last time a sitting Government lost two seats on the same night was in 1991 – when former Prime Minister John Major lost Langbaurgh and the Scottish seat of Kincardine and Deeside – in 1992 Major won the 1992 General Election, so it might not yet be over for Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson has suggested it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats, and claimed he was “very hopeful” about the results.
The Prime Minister was said to be monitoring the results from Rwanda, where he is attending the Commonwealth leaders summit.
Speaking to broadcasters in the capital Kigali, the Prime Minister said: “I’m going to be watching the results with interest but always full of optimism and buoyancy but most seasoned political observers know that by-elections in mid-term are never necessarily easy for any government.”
But despite the Prime Minister’s claims, a senior Tory source acknowledged the situation was looking “extremely difficult” in the Devon seat, where the Conservatives were defending a majority of more than 24,000.
In Wakefield, a Labour campaign source said Sir Keir Starmer’s party would “just” win the contest to replace Imran Ahmad Khan, who quit after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy – a crime for which he was jailed for 18 months.
Wakefield was one of the so-called red wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being Labour since the 1930s.
In Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish – the Tory MP since 2010 – resigned after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.
Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine said the party’s candidate Richard Foord had “stood up for his local community” against “a Conservative party which has taken people in Devon for granted”.
“Never in the history of British politics has a majority this big been overturned in a by-election. We’ve said throughout this campaign this is a huge mountain to climb,” she said.
“However, if the Conservative Party lose significant numbers of votes tonight in one of their safest seats in the country, there will be countless Conservative MPs looking over their shoulders nervously tomorrow.”
The Prime Minister urged voters in the rural seat to “stick up for British food and farming” by supporting Tory Helen Hurford, a former head teacher.