- Elections for two parliamentary seats on Thursday
- Defeat could prompt party lawmakers to move against Johnson
- The cost of living, Brexit and immigration policy in the spotlight
Tiverton/Wakefield, England, June 21 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may this week lose two parliamentary seats that once represented his broad appeal, showing a waning popularity that could prompt his party to try to find a way to oust him.
His Conservative party will run in by-elections on Thursday: one in Tiverton and Honiton, a deeply conservative corner of Devon in southwest England, and one in the former industrial region of Wakefield in northern England, which voted for his party. For the first time in 90 years in 2019.
Defeat in either place could dent Johnson’s vote-winning reputation and see lawmakers who fear for his future try to move against him despite giving him a deadline by calling and losing a confidence vote against him earlier this month.
Johnson secured the largest Conservative majority in three decades in the 2019 national election by overturning traditional British politics and winning both over the traditional Conservatives in the south and the industrial regions of central and northern England.
But now, support for the party is fading in both areas, and it may push some Conservative lawmakers to try to shorten the 12-month grace period between confidence votes. Some 41% of Johnson’s lawmakers voted to impeach him this month.
The by-election was triggered by high-profile resignations of Conservative MPs, one of whom admitted to watching pornography in Parliament and another of sexual assault of a teenager.
In the rural town of Tiverton, part-time yoga teacher Jenny Keane, 72, said she voted for the Conservative Party but would not do so now due to unresolved tensions with the EU and ‘Partygate’ when Johnson attended lockdown-breaking parties during the Covid pandemic. -19.
“I don’t think I did Brexit at all,” he told Reuters. “Party Gate is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m disgusted.” Keane said he would vote instead for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.
Reuters spoke to at least 30 people on both sites, asking them the same questions about policy areas. While voters in Devon focused on the party portal, the Rwandan government’s deportation policy and Brexit, they focused more on the cost of living crisis in Wakefield.
Tiverton has voted for the Conservative Party in every election for nearly a century, and in 2019 the party won a majority of nearly 25,000 votes.
“I would have voted for the Conservative Party had it not been for the case of the immigration flights to Rwanda. It has made a huge difference for me and my husband,” said Lizzie Bowman, 58, describing him as showing “unreasonable behaviour.”
Many Tiverton voters who voted for the Conservative Party indicated that they likely would not vote at all, while opponents of the Conservatives were voting tactically for the most likely option to eliminate them.
While there is little reliable balloting in Tiverton and Wakefield, bookmakers say the Conservatives are likely to lose both seats.
In Wakefield, a town about a four-hour drive north of London, voters said the government needed to do more to help people deal with the highest rate of inflation in three decades.
Barbara Lawson, a 54-year-old shopkeeper who voted for the Conservative Party in 2019 but can now vote for the main opposition Labor Party, said she did not fully understand the government about Brexit or Rwanda’s relocation strategy.
Lawson said the rising cost of living means her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are cutting back on food expenses and struggling to move from their two-bedroom apartment to a larger location even though both parents work part-time.
Lawson said he knows people who have started using food banks and friends who have said they are concerned about having to stop using their cars because of the rising cost of gasoline.
“People’s concerns here are very daily,” he said. “Even people who have good jobs are suffering now.”
But one aspect working in Johnson’s favor could be almost unanimously the lack of enthusiasm for Labor leader Keir Starmer.
Jeff Hawke, 57, who works in arts education, said he recently quit his Labor membership after nearly four decades because he felt he no longer understood what he stood for.
“It seems that the Labor Party lacks any direction at the moment,” he said. “Starmer doesn’t seem to have much of a personality, so he struggles to connect with people.” Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Alison Williams
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