Pressure mounts on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after crushing special election defeats

A defeat in any district would have been a blow to the Prime Minister’s party. Losing both adds to panic among turbulent conservatives, who worry an already fiery but precarious and divisive Johnson is no longer an electoral asset.

Party president Oliver Dowden resigned, saying “our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their sentiments.”

“We can’t go on with business as usual,” he said. “Someone must take responsibility and I have concluded that, under these circumstances, it would not be right for me to continue in office.”

“I will remain as loyal to the Conservative Party as ever,” he said without endorsing Johnson.

The prime minister was 4,000 miles away at a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda as the results were announced.

The election test comes as Britain faces its worst life crisis in a generation, with Russia’s war in Ukraine squeezing supplies of energy and food staples at a time of rising consumer demand, while the coronavirus pandemic recedes.

Speaking in Kigali, Johnson acknowledged the results were “difficult” and said he would “listen to what people are saying, especially the difficulties that people are facing at the cost of living.”

Johnson won a large majority in the 2019 general election by winning the traditional electorate of the Conservatives – affluent, old and concentrated in southern England – and the newcomers in poor, post-industrialized northern towns where many residents felt overlooked by governments for decades. Won.

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

Labor’s widely expected victory in Wakefield – whose previous Conservative legislator resigned after pleading guilty to sexual assault – is a boost to a party that has been out of office nationally since 2010.

Labor leader Keir Starmer said it showed the party was “back to the working people, where we lost earlier, and is ready for government.”