oris Johnson has said he will “listen” to voters and “keep going” after the Tory party suffered a double blow on Friday as voters rejected the Conservatives in two crunch by-elections, leading to the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden.
Speaking from Kigali, where the prime minister is at a Commonwealth leaders’ summit, Mr Johnson said: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results, they’ve been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we’ve got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment.”
In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield.
The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41 per cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.
Mr Dowden said in a letter of resignation to Mr Johnson that the defeats in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield are the “latest in a run of very poor results for our party”.
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Sir Ed Davey: PM ‘must be pushed out’
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has said the Tiverton and Honiton by-election result shows “Boris Johnson really must be pushed out”.
Breaking: PM speaks for first time after Conservatives suffer two by-election losses
Boris Johnson has said he will “listen” to voters but will “keep going” after the Tories suffered a double by-election defeat.
He has also thanked Oliver Dowden after he resigned as Tory party co-chairman.
Speaking to broadcasters in Kigali, the Prime Minister: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results, they’ve been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we’ve got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment.
“I think, as a Government, I’ve got to listen to what people are saying, in particular to the difficulties people are facing over the cost of living, which, I think, for most people is the number one issue.
“We’re now facing pressures on the cost of living, we’re seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs – that’s hitting people.
“We’ve got to recognise there is more we’ve got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going, addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”
Tory MP: PM ought to be ‘reconsidering position’
Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale has said Boris Johnson “ought to be re-considering his position”.
He tweeted following the two by-election losses: “Spin them how you like the by- election results in Tiverton & Honiton and in Wakefield are another vote of no-confidence in a Prime Minister that ought to honourably this morning be re-considering his position.
“Commiserations to Conservative candidates who deserved better. The soul of our Party is at stake.”
He also defended Oliver Dowden after he resigned as party chairman, calling him “a decent and honourable man who has clearly decided that he can no longer defend the indefensible.”
Reports Priti Patel standing in for Oliver Dowden on morning media round after resignation
Home Secretary Priti Patel was said to be replacing party chairman Oliver Dowden on the Friday morning media round – a sign that at least his staunchest backers are standing by him but it was not clear yet the scale of support for him in Cabinet.
Where is the PM?
Boris Johnson is in Rwanda for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) this week.
Mr Johnson, who is at a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Kigali, has suggested it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats and said mid-term by-elections were “never necessarily easy for any government”.
Labour ‘rebuilding that red wall’, says Wakefield’s new MP
Wakefield’s new MP has said that his party’s victory has “turned the page of Tory neglect” in the West Yorkshire constituency.
Speaking to the BBC following his Labour’s win, regaining the seat after it went to the Conservatives at the 2019 general election, Simon Lightwood said he felt “absolutely exhilarated”.
He continued: “I feel so humbled to be returned as Wakefield’s new MP.
“I think it says that Labour is making real progress, rebuilding that red wall, rebuilding the trust of the electorate and people are ready for a fresh start.”
Prior to the Conservatives win in 2019, which saw it turn blue by 3,358 votes, Wakefield had been a Labour stronghold since 1932.
Tiverton and Honiton: The night in pictures
Conservative MP: Oliver Dowden ‘not to blame’ for by-election results
Simon Hoare, the Tory chair of the Northern Ireland select committee, has said Oliver Dowden is “not to blame” for the by-election results.
Defending his “friend”, Mr Hoare tweeted: “An honourable letter from an honourable man.
“@OliverDowden is not to blame for these results. Since 2015 I have always been proud to call Oliver a friend. Never more so than today.”