Tuesday 20 August 2019

Boris Johnson dealt significant blow as Conservatives lose by-election and have working majority of just one

British prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Wire
British prime minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA Wire

Sam Blewett, Political Correspondent, and Adam Hale

BORIS Johnson has been dealt a significant blow after the Conservatives lost the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to leave the new British Prime Minister with a working majority of just one.

The Liberal Democrats won the mid-Wales constituency by a margin of 1,425, swinging the vote nearly 12 per cent from the Tories.

Mr Johnson's first major challenge as Tory leader became his first major defeat with the announcement of Jane Dodds' victory in the early hours of Friday.

The Tory loss will add to the UK PM's challenges to steer Brexit through the House of Parliament and may increase the chances of a snap general election.

With the vote coming eight days after Mr Johnson was anointed, it is the quickest by-election defeat for any British PM of the post-War period.

Welsh Lib Dems leader Ms Dodds immediately challenged Mr Johnson to rule out a no-deal Brexit as she celebrated her victory.

"People are desperately crying out for a different kind of politics. There is no time for tribalism when our country is faced with a Boris Johnson Government and the threat of a no-deal Brexit," she said.

"So my very first act as your MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson wherever he is hiding and tell him loud and clear: 'Stop playing with the future of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit now'."

She pushed into second place the Conservative candidate Chris Davies, who was the constituency's MP until he was ousted in a recall petition after he admitted submitting false invoices for expenses.

Despite 19pc of the electorate petitioning for his recall, the Tories selected Mr Davies to fight to reclaim the seat.

The Lib Dems secured 43pc of the vote, the Tories 39pc and the Brexit Party 10pc.

Fourth-placed Labour narrowly avoided losing its deposit by securing just over 5pc of the share.

Newly-elected Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: "Boris Johnson's shrinking majority makes it clear that he has no mandate to crash us out of the EU."

The vote may also be seen as an early victory for the "Remain alliance" of anti-Brexit parties, with Plaid Cymru and the Greens agreeing not to field candidates in order not to split the pro-EU vote.

Ms Dodds thanked those two parties for their "courageous decision".

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the "spirit of co-operation" between the pro-Remain parties had led to Ms Dodds's election, as he called for a second referendum.

"But if the prime minister is intent on a general election, he should know that Plaid Cymru and the other pro-Remain parties are committed to cooperating so that we beat Brexit once and for all," he added.

Mr Davies won the seat from the Lib Dems in 2015 and secured a majority of 8,038 in the 2017 general election.

But this was overhauled with a swing to the Lib Dems of 11.96pc.

The loss leaves the PM with the support of 319 MPs, including the DUP which props up his majority, while opposition parties now have 318.

Mr Davies' recall came after he pleaded guilty in March to submitting two false expenses invoices for nine photographs costing £700 (€765) to decorate his new office.

He was fined £1,500, (€1,600) ordered to pay £2,500 (€2,732) towards legal costs and told to carry out 50 hours of community service.

In his losing speech, Mr Davies thanked his team and family "who have had a difficult time over the last few months".

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