London Politics latest LIVE: Tories lose Tiverton and Honiton, Wakefield by-elections as Oliver Dowden resigns as chairman

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oris Johnson‘s leadership of the Tory party suffered a double blow on Friday as voters rejected the Conservatives in two crunch by-elections, leading to the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden.

In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labor reclaimed Wakefield.

The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Toriesoffered voters the opportunity to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41 per cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

Mr Dowden said in a letter of resignation to Mr Johnson that the defeats in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield are the “latest in a run of very poor results for our party”.

Live updates

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Oliver Dowden resigns as chairman of Tory party

Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

“Yesterday’s Parliamentary by-elections are the latest in a run of very poor result for our party,” Mr Dowden wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister.

“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.”

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Lib Dems MP says win is ‘absolutely staggering’

Richard Foord, the newly-elected Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, described his victory as “absolutely staggering”.

Speaking just after the vote was announced on Friday morning, he said: “This result is absolutely staggering, we weren’t expecting a win, let alone a win of this scale.”

Mr Foord added: “We have been noticing that momentum has been shifting from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats over the course of this campaign and particularly in recent days because of the very positive agenda we were setting out.

“But this is absolutely seismic and we have overturned the biggest majority in parliamentary by-election history and it really sent a very clear message to this Government.”

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Historic by-election win

The Conservatives’ defeat at the polls in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield is the first time in more than 30 years that a government has lost two by-elections on the same day.

The previous occasion was on November 7 1991, when the Conservative government of John Major lost the seat of Langbaurgh in Cleveland to Labor and also Kincardine & Deeside in east Scotland to the Liberal Democrats.

A double by-election loss for a government is so rare in British politics that it has now happened only seven times since the Second World War.

The Liberal Democrats needed a swing of at least 22.8 percent points to win Tiverton & Honiton – in other words, 23 in every 100 people in the constituency who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election needed to switch directly to the Lib Dems.

In the event they managed a swing of 29.9 points: large enough to rank as the sixth biggest swing against a government since 1945 in a by-election that saw a change in both party and MP.


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