‘Critics will feel emboldened’ – How Boris’s future could hinge on upcoming by-elections

Boris Johnson ‘won’t lead Tories into next election’ says former MP

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Residents in Wakefield, as well as Honiton and Tiverton, will have the chance to re-shape their local communities next week. Both areas are due to hold by-elections after their respective Conservative Party MPs were forced to step down. The votes could have a significant say on the future of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who survived a vote of confidence earlier this month.

Both by-elections will be held on Thursday, June 23, with results being announced shortly afterwards.

Wakefield

In April, the parliamentary seat for Wakefield became vacant after its then MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, was forced to step down following a child abuse conviction.

The seat used to be part of the Labour Party’s so-called ‘Red Wall’, which crumbled to the Conservatives in the 2019 general election.

During that election, the Tories gained 21,283 ballots to Labour’s 17,925, but pollsters are predicting a much tighter contest this time around.

For example, research by Survation – released on June 6 – has predicted Labour will win with 56 percent of the vote, compared with the Tories 33 percent.

In the build-up to the vote, Labour has encountered in-house issues deciding on a candidate, eventually electing Simon Lightwood to lead its campaign push.

While the Conservatives have also found candidacy an issue. The party’s preferred choice, Nadeem Ahmed, lives in the constituency, but he did lose a vote of confidence among his Tory colleagues on the local council last year.

Honiton and Tiverton

A separate poll will take place in the Devon constituency of Honiton and Tiverton, after the resignation of its ex-MP Neil Parish.

Mr Parish stepped down after admitting he had twice watched pornography in the House of Commons.

The Tories have held the seat since 2010, and enjoyed a majority of more than 24,000 votes at the previous general election.

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However, its grip is expected to be tested by Sir Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrat Party on this occasion.

The Lib Dems have enjoyed recent scalps over the Tories, such as the seat in North Shropshire, last December.

Internal polling from the party has shown just a two point difference between itself and the Tories.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pushed hard to retain the seat, and even personally visited the area to maintain electoral support.

Earlier this month, the PM won a vote of confidence in his leadership by 211 ballots to 148.

But there have been suggestions a poor performance in either by-election could lead to renewed calls for Mr Johnson to resign.

Dr Rod Dacombe, Director at the Centre for British Politics and Government from King’s College London, told Express.co.uk the PM would be “handed a lifeline” with a successful showing.

But he countered that his “critics will feel emboldened” in the event of two defeats.

He said: “Don’t forget, a good proportion of those voting against the PM wanted to wait until after the by-elections had passed before holding a confidence vote.

“But don’t expect anything dramatic to happen quickly. The PM’s allies will claim these results as the usual mid-term setbacks and it is hard to see the kind of swift mobilisation needed to get support for another confidence vote in the immediate future.

“Instead, this will be another step on the way towards another challenge for the PM.

“The problem for the Conservatives is that they have given up ground in their traditional heartlands in order to win Labour seats in the ‘Red Wall’.

“If the by-election results indicate that they aren’t just losing ground in the constituencies gained in 2019, but are in jeopardy in previously safe seats, then questions over how far Boris Johnson is becoming an electoral liability will grow stronger.”

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