British Prime Minister under pressure: setbacks – but Johnson wants to stay

Status: 06/24/2022 1:39 p.m

Renewed election defeats, the resignation of a loyal ally: the situation is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for British Prime Minister Johnson. Experts believe a “John Major scenario” is possible.

By Gabi Biesinger, ARD Studio London

It was 5:35 am when Oliver Dowden, general secretary of the Conservative Party, tweeted his resignation letter. Shortly before, the results of two by-elections in Yorkshire and Devon had become known. In the north of England, in Wakefield, Labor recaptured a long-held seat that first fell to the Conservatives in 2019.

And in south-west Devon, in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency, the Liberal Democrats won a resounding victory in a constituency the Conservatives had held for more than 100 years. New Lib Dem MP Richard Foord said it was time for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to go:

Across the country, the Liberal Democrats are knocking out the Conservatives and winning. People who have voted Conservative all their lives are repelled by Boris Johnson’s lies and fed up.

Dowden turns his back on Johnson

In Wakefield, Labor leader Keir Starmer also called for the self-dissolving Conservatives to clear the way for a Labor government. At the vote of no confidence in early June in the House of Commons, when 41 percent of his group wanted to oust the conservative party leader Johnson because of his leadership and the scandal surrounding lockdown parties at the seat of government, Secretary General Dowden was still loyal to him.

But after these election results, someone must now take responsibility, wrote Dowden. Under these circumstances, he could no longer remain in office. Many Tory supporters are “desperate and disappointed” – and he can understand that.

Oliver Dowden has previously done party work for Johnson. Now he gave up.

Image: REUTERS

Johnson is on the way and is relaxed

Speaking to the BBC, Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he was concerned he would also lose his seat to the Liberal Democrats should he face a by-election. The party really has to think about whether it is still possible to win elections with Johnson: “We in the parliamentary group must now decide whether the prime minister can adequately explain this defeat or whether we need to look around for a new prime minister.”

But it will be a while before Johnson has to answer questions from the parliamentary group. The Prime Minister is currently attending the Commonwealth Summit in Rwanda, followed by the G7 meeting in Germany and then Spain for the NATO Summit.

Johnson had previously ruled out resigning in the event of an election defeat. In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, he reacted calmly to the results:

It has always been the case since the war that governing parties have lost mid-term elections. But people are concerned about the cost of living crisis and we will listen to the voters and we will continue until we are through this valley.

More than the famous mid-term blues?

However, pollster and election expert John Curtice from Glasgow’s Strathclyde University reads more than just the famous one in the election results midterm blues between two parliamentary elections. In Devon in particular, Labor voters had swung to the Liberal Democrats to prevent a Conservative victory at all costs.

And that could be dangerous for the conservatives. Their problem is not only that they generally have very low approval ratings of 33 percent, says Curtice. The election expert believes that in parliamentary elections it could happen that voters get together and vote for the party that is most likely to beat the conservatives. “And that’s exactly what happened to Conservative Prime Minister John Major in 1997 when he lost the election because of this tactical voter behavior.”

Lib-Dems seem to be getting rid of their bad reputation

The Liberal Democrats had already won by-elections in Chesham, Amersham and North Shropshire earlier this year, taking Conservative strongholds in each. While the party was considered “toxic” for a while after its participation in the government under conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, the Liberals, who are still clearly opposed to Brexit, seem to be an alternative on the ballot again.

And Labor’s election victory in Wakefield is an indication that the Labor Party could succeed in taking seats from the so-called redwall recapturing what were actually Labor strongholds and won in 2019 with the help of Johnson.

The panicked withdrawal of Secretary General Dowden, who had previously been loyal to Johnson, in the early hours of the morning and emphasized his loyalty to the Conservative Party in his letter, is a clear signal that Johnson is losing more and more support.

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