A Resounding Defeat for the UK Conservatives, Will Boris Johnson Survive Again?

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a new blow after his Conservative Party lost two important seats in Parliament by-elections, which exacerbates the series of crises faced by the British leader in recent months and confirms the decline in popularity of Johnson and his party and the possibility of losing the general election.

The latest defeat led to the resignation of Conservative Party chief Oliver Dowden from his party post.

After that, Johnson, 58, said that he would listen to the votes of the electorate, but that he intends to lead the Conservative Party during the upcoming elections, despite what British newspapers reported about his opponents' efforts within the party to overthrow him.

With Johnson out of Britain for a week, the fresh crisis may prompt Conservative MPs opposed to him to start again in attempts to oust him.

Johnson's opponents are working to get an internal committee of party lawmakers known as the 1922 Committee, which sets the party's rules, for a vote of no-confidence, according to what was revealed by press reports.


Crushing Defeat

The Guardian newspaper revealed that Johnson received a double blow to his power after his Conservative Party lost seats in Wakefield to Labor, and Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats in the by-election held on June 24, 2022.

According to Sky News, Johnson was shocked by the news of the resignation of Dowden, who had been his longtime ally, and did not expect it, although the latter warned him earlier this week to expect defeat and lose two important seats.

In his letter of resignation from the Conservative Party leadership, Oliver Dowden said: “The latest series of very poor results for his party had caused him to resign.”

In the letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he added: “Our supporters are frustrated and disappointed by recent events, and I share their sentiments.”

He continued, “We cannot continue with business as usual. Someone has to take responsibility, and I have concluded that under these circumstances, it is not right for me to remain in my office.”



Johnson responded by saying he understood the reasons for Dowden's frustration, noting that his government had been elected by a historic mandate more than two years ago and that he would continue to act on that basis.

Johnson commented on his party's loss, saying that voters are going through a difficult time at the moment and his party's problems are largely due to the cost of living crisis, not complaints against him as a leader, stressing that he will not undergo any psychological transformation.

A wave of resignations from Johnson's government team could be another way to force the PM to resign before the next national election, scheduled for 2024, and it may be called before that date.

The by-election was held after the resignation of two Conservative MPs, namely: Neil Parish, 65, who admitted that he watched a pornographic movie on his phone in Parliament, and Imran Khan, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager.

Boris Johnson was dealt a severe blow last May after Paul Holmes, a Conservative MP, resigned from his position as Parliamentary Special Secretary in the Home Office.

The last results are very important and worrying for the ruling Conservative Party for two reasons; the first is the losses of Tiverton and Honiton mean that many of the safe seats in southern and western England may be at risk in the next general election.

While the other is the Wakefield result indicates that Labor may regain many of the so-called red wall seats that turned to Johnson's party in the 2019 elections.

Opposition leader Keir Starmer, 59, who aspires to take over Johnson's position, said: “The Conservative Party lacked energy and ideas.”


Johnson Scandals

PM Boris Johnson has been fighting for months for his political continuity after a series of controversies, especially the scandal of the Downing Street parties, in which Johnson and several government officials violated the rules of the Corona closure by holding parties at the government headquarters, and he was fined by the police with dozens of his employees, which negatively affected the legitimacy of his remaining leader of the party.

Last May, the British ITV network published pictures showing Johnson drinking wine during a gathering of PM's employees.

These pictures cast doubts about Johnson's statements to Parliament that he did not know that he was breaking the law by attending these parties.

Johnson also faces a separate parliamentary inquiry into whether he lied about breaking the law.

Even before the controversy that erupted last December, the Brexit architect lost two previously guaranteed seats to his party during a by-election last year.

In the local elections that took place in the UK with all its components (Britain, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) last May, the Conservative Party lost hundreds of seats in favor of its rivals.

After counting the majority of votes in various councils in Britain, it was found that the Conservative Party had lost more than 500 seats in various municipalities, in addition to losing 11 municipal councils that were for decades considered one of the strongholds of the Conservative Party.

A poor Conservative by-election result is expected to increase pressure on Johnson, who this month survived a confidence vote by Conservative MPs, despite 41 percent of his party's deputies voting for his ouster.

Johnson had faced several other scandals that damaged his standing at the polls, despite winning a landslide 80 seats just two and a half years ago.

These include accusations of improperly using donor money to pay for the renovations of his Downing Street home, and flogging of MPs to protect a colleague who violated lobbying rules.

All these problems were compounded by another Carrie Gate scandal, related to alleged repeated attempts by Johnson to obtain paid jobs for his wife, Carrie.

According to media reports, the biggest problem facing the British PM is one that is somewhat outside his control, as the cost of living crisis escalates, the government has few tools to make things easier for British citizens.

It is noteworthy that the inflation rate in Britain has reached its highest level in forty years—more than 9 percent—which raises more social movements, this prompted railway workers to strike, the worst in 30 years, while union activists and the opposition pointed the finger at Johnson for refusing to negotiate with those unions.

Also this month, the Johnson government's controversial plan to deport a number of migrants to Rwanda also failed, amid rising voices about its illegality, as well as amending the Ministerial Law and then the Human Rights Law.

To make matters worse for Johnson, the Times newspaper reported on 25 June 2022 that he planned to build a house of bulletproof glass on a tree for his son on the grounds of Checkers, the country residence of UK prime ministers.

The newspaper reported that “Johnson had contacted a Conservative donor about financing the project, but he eventually gave up on the idea after protection officers warned him that such a home was a security risk, and aides advised that it would be difficult to defend the £150,000 project cost.”


Change the Rules

Recent history suggests that Johnson's reign may end before he has a chance to run in the next election in 2024. Theresa May survived a confidence vote, with 83 votes in 2018, compared to Johnson's 63.

Under current rules, Conservative Party members will not be allowed to hold another confidence vote, before a year.

However, it would be possible to change the rules in order for another vote to take place sooner, knowing that the party fears Johnson will cost them the next election, according to Bloomberg.

Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative lawmaker, told GB News on June 24, 2022, that he would support the 1922 Committee to try to change the rules.

He said, “The door for nominations is open next week for the executive role in the 1922 Committee, and the vote may be in the following week.”

In turn, former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard said on June 24, 2022: “It was time for Johnson to leave.”

Johnson's mistakes, and his bad practices, have caused the Conservative Party to split into multiple and rival factions, heading towards a possible early election, as reported by Bloomberg, which spoke of a civil war in the party.

The divisions became so clear that two young MPs from two rival factions were seen fighting in the British House of Commons.

The Conservatives are not now divided over the EU, as they were when former PMs Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and David Cameron lost their grip on power and after Brexit, the party's breakdown is more complete.

In turn, lawyer Bassam Tablieh indicated in a statement to Al-Estiklal that “Boris Johnson is not expected to resign, as it was clear that he was determined to continue, and that he was trying with all his might to stay in his position despite the scandals he was exposed to, and the losses suffered by his party.”

“Johnson remaining as prime minister will cause a lot of crises for the Conservative Party and may affect the decision of voters in the general election in 2024,” he added.

Mr. Tablieh also stressed that “Johnson's mistakes and bad practices have led to internal divisions in the Conservative Party, especially after the withdrawal of some party members, and the demand of other members to withdraw confidence from Johnson, with others objecting to the level of performance of his government, and a significant decline in his popularity.”