Boris Johnson should 'go now', says Tiverton by-election winner

The Tories lost two by-elections on the same day for the first time in more than 30 years.

A double by-election loss is so rare in British politics that it has only ever happened seven times since WWII.

The last was in November 1991, when John Major lost the seat of Langbaurgh in Cleveland to Labour and Kincardine & Deeside in east Scotland to the Liberal Democrats.

The double whammy was an embarrassing blow for Boris Johnson, who said he will "keep going" after describing the loss of Tiverton and Honiton to the Lib Dems, and Wakefield to Labour as “tough”.

It was too much for Conservative Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden, who quit. He expressed how he and Tory supporters are “distressed and disappointed by recent events”, telling the prime minister that “someone must take responsibility”.

Johnson thanked Dowden for his "excellent" service in the role, saying he would take responsibility while stressing the cost-of-living crisis was the most important thing for voters, saying it is “true that in mid-term governments post-war lose by-elections”.

“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,” he said at a conference centre in Kigali, Rwanda.

“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.”

In an interview with Channel 4 News, the prime minister insisted: “I, of course, take responsibility for the electoral performance of the Government.”

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In the rural Devon constituency of 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 MPs cast their ballots against him.

Dowden, who was due to appear on the morning media round for the Government on Friday, said in his letter to the PM the by-elections “are the latest in a run of very poor results for our party”.

He said: “Our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings.

“We cannot carry on with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.”

The MP ended his letter by saying: “I want to emphasise that this is a deeply personal decision that I have taken alone.

“I will, as always, remain loyal to the Conservative Party.”

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