British voters deliver a harsh punishment to Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party | International
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As much as the defeat had been anticipated, and even amortized, the blow that British voters have dealt Boris Johnson this Thursday will once again call into question the political future and the authority of the Prime Minister among his own. The Conservative Party has suffered a double defeat, at the hands of Labor and the Liberal Democrats respectively, in the by-elections held in the Wakefield and Tiverton-Honiton constituencies. The calls byelections they are calls to the polls, at any time during the legislature, when a seat becomes vacant. In the Wakefield case, Conservative Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted and jailed for sexually assaulting a teenager. It was one of the turfs the left had dominated for decades – part of the so-called “red wall” in the north of England – and which Johnson managed to wrest back for the Conservatives in his historic victory in December 2019. Tiverton-Honiton, in the wealthy English Southwest, it was also the natural territory of the Conservatives. Until today. His Conservative MP, Neil Parish, resigned after two female colleagues accused her of watching porn on his mobile phone during a session of the House of Commons.
The president of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden, has sent a letter in the early hours of this Friday to Johnson announcing his resignation, to try to carry out damage control of the electoral coup. “Our voters are distraught and disappointed by recent events, and I share their sentiment.” Without saying so, Dowden pointed directly to the Downing Street party scandal during the lockdown, which ended with the prime minister being fined by the police for breaking the law, and an internal no-confidence motion against Johnson in which 41% of his deputies He demanded his expulsion. “We cannot continue as if nothing had happened. Someone must take responsibility, and I have concluded that it would not be correct for me to continue in the position, “explained Dowden.
It is too soon to determine whether Johnson’s defeat —because no one hesitates to attribute it to the prime minister, not to the two local conservative candidates— is a definitive abandonment of the voters, or a temporary punishment resulting from the irritation and disappointment of many of them for party scandal. Johnson, visiting Rwanda for an event that brings together the nations of the commonwealth [la Comunidad política surgida después de la fragmentación del Imperio Británico]had preemptively dismissed as “madness” the possibility that he would resign as a result of a defeat in the by-elections.
Hours after learning the results, the prime minister blamed the current cost-of-living crisis for what happened and disassociated himself from the setback. “We have to listen to the message of the people,” Johnson said in Kigali, “but these results have nothing to do with my leadership. Governments always tend to lose by-elections since after the Second World War”.
The Liberal Democrats have always been the preferred choice for traditional right-wing voters to send a warning signal or rebuke to Tories. The victory of his candidate Richard Foord in Tiventon-Honiton, with more than 6,000 votes above the Conservative rival, reflects a tactical vote. Both citizens with Labor sympathies and the Conservatives themselves have turned to Foord, and have turned the situation around. In 2019, the advantage of the Tories in that district it was more than 24,000 ballots. “This should be a wake up call to Conservative MPs who continue to support Johnson. They cannot afford to ignore this result,” said Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. Candidate Foord went even further in his speech celebrating victory: “Tonight the British people have spoken to send a message loud and clear. The time has come for Boris Johnson to go. He has brought us into a state of shame, chaos, and neglect. He is not fit to lead ”, he has sentenced.
relief for labor
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The victory of the Labor candidate, Simon Lightwood, in Wakefield, has allowed the leader of the Labor Party, Keir Starmer, to breathe a sigh of relief. Three years after replacing Jeremy Corbyn at the head of the formation, much more positioned to the left than his successor, the role played by Starmer continues to arouse doubts among voters, and among militants nostalgic for the previous period. The polls indicate little by little an improvement in his expectations, before future general elections, but not enough to think of a possible victory. The reconquest of Wakefield, historical Labor territory until Johnson arrived and changed the rules of the game, allows Labor to be fed with the hope of a comeback. In 2019, the Conservatives turned a 6% (lead) turnaround in that constituency. This Thursday, the candidate of the leftist formation has managed to position himself more than ten percentage points ahead of his rival.
“This result is a clear verdict that the Conservative Party has run out of ideas and out of energy. The Labor Party is on the side of the working people, it recovers seats that it had previously lost and it is prepared to govern”, said Starmer in the early hours of this Friday, when the victory of Wakefield was already clear.
After a long count, at four in the morning (five in Spanish peninsular time), two new electoral results were two new reminders to the conservative deputies that Johnson’s magic to mobilize voters had begun to suffer a harsh erosion. In principle, the party’s internal rules prohibit the holding of a new internal censure motion until one year after the previous one. In early June, the British prime minister managed to narrowly save his post. The general consensus among Tories has been to take a truce until the fall before rethinking if they let go of their leader’s hand. The defeat at the polls this Friday, and the coming summer of strikes and social unrest in the United Kingdom, once again put the British prime minister on the tightrope.
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