UK by-elections pose new threat to Boris Johnson


NNN: Voters began heading to the polls on Thursday in two closely watched British by-elections that risk renewed pressure on embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson after months of scandals and setbacks.

Their Tory leaders are set to lose both contests, for the parliamentary seats of Tiverton and Honiton in the south west of England and Wakefield in the north, after the two Tory MPs resigned in disgrace.

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Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish resigned after admitting to viewing pornography on his phone in the House of Commons, while Wakefield’s Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for sexually assaulting a teenager.

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Polling stations opened at 07:00 (06:00 GMT) and will end at 22:00 (21:00 GMT), with results expected in the early hours of Friday.

The votes come just weeks after Johnson narrowly survived an attempt by his own lawmakers to impeach him as party leader and prime minister.

In the June 6 vote among Tory MPs, more than 40% of the parliamentary party abandoned him, leaving him severely weakened and struggling to restore his troubled tenure.

Johnson has spent months fighting for her survival after a series of controversies, including the “Partygate” saga, which has left many conservatives questioning whether she should remain in charge.

Various opinion polls have shown that the public thinks he lied about the Covid lockdown breaking events at Downing Street and that he should resign.

Even before controversy erupted last December, the 58-year-old architect of Brexit saw the loss of two once secure seats in last year’s by-election.

He then scored miserably in the local elections in May.

Defeat at the conservative pure blue heart of Tiverton and Honiton, and Wakefield, which Johnson snatched in 2019 from the main opposition Labor party for the first time since the 1930s, could see his position challenged again.

‘Madness’ Parish, who described her actions as an indefensible moment of “utter madness”, won a majority of more than 24,000 votes in Tiverton and Honiton in 2019.

There, small opposition Liberal Democrats are hoping to win the seat in rural Devon after toppling equally large majorities in two other historically secure Tory seats in 2021.

Wakefield, near Leeds, was one of dozens of Labor’s so-called “red wall” seats that Johnson won in 2019 on a promise to “end Brexit” and address gross regional economic inequalities.

But now he could be stepping back in part because of Johnson’s waning popularity.

“Anything is better than the Conservative Party, as far as I’m concerned, especially Boris Johnson,” Stephen, a 61-year-old hotel worker who has long voted for Labor, told AFP this week.

‘Partygate’ and prices Surveys show Britain is locked in by 40-year highs in inflation and a cost-of-living crisis that has seen prices soar for basic necessities such as energy, gasoline and food.

This week’s railway workers’ strikes, among the largest in Britain for decades, have added to the sense of crisis.

Some in Wakefield said they hoped it would weigh on voters’ minds as much as the Downing Street party saga.

“I think people will be affected by ‘Partygate’,” said David, a retired medical consultant.

“But I think the main thing that’s going to hit us is inflation and the rising cost of living from a heating and electricity point of view and the ripple effect on food prices and transportation. .”

The contest there also carries risks for Labour, who must secure seats like Wakefield if they are to win the next general election due in 2024.

Labor leader Keir Starmer, a sober former lawyer who tried to rebuild the centre-left party after a devastating defeat in 2019, has been criticized for his failure to connect with voters, especially in his old heartland.

His critics are likely to take anything less than a convincing win at Wakefield as further evidence of his failure to complete the rebuild and return the party to power after 12 years in opposition.

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