Boris Johnson put to the test by two tough by-elections

Boris Johnson put to the test by two tough by-elections

The prospect for the Tories of losing two seats in Parliament risks accentuating the climate of mistrust within the majority entangled in scandals.

Weakened by scandals, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces two difficult by-elections on Thursday, June 23, which are testing his ability to win his side. Two weeks after surviving a no-confidence vote in the wake of “partygate” – a case of drunken parties in Downing Street during the confinements – without brilliance, the prospect for the Tories of losing two seats in Parliament risks accentuating the climate of distrust. within the majority. The two elections are held following less than rosy affairs for the Conservatives, in constituencies heavy with political meaning.

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In Wakefield, in the north of England, it is a traditionally Labor stronghold delighted in December 2019 during the triumph of the Tories which is at stake. Hoping to take over this section of the “red wall” collapsed during the last general elections, the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer claimed that Wakefield ‘could be the birthplace of the next Labor government’. The polls give a clear lead – of around twenty points – to the Labor candidate Simon Lightwood, an employee of the British public health service, the NHS. The poll was triggered by the resignation of incumbent Imran Khan, sentenced to 18 months in prison for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy. The constituency was continuously in Labor hands between 1932 and 2019.

In Tiverton and Honiton, a conservative South West England constituency since its creation in 1997, voters choose Neil Parish’s successor. The 65-year-old MP had tendered his resignation after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in Parliament. This ex-farmer by profession had explained that he had come across the site for adults while looking for tractors, before returning there, in “a moment of madness”.

Inflation at its peak

The Liberal Democrats hope to win, as they did last December in North Shropshire, a very rural conservative stronghold in northern England, lost after a lobbying scandal. Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (6 a.m. to 9 p.m. GMT), with results expected at dawn on Friday. Sign of the unease and the scale of the task to regain confidence, the candidate for Tiverton and Honiton, Helen Hurford, twice refused to comment on the honesty of Boris Johnson during an interview with the left-wing daily The Guardian. The Prime Minister “thinks he’s honest”she just said.

Considered a winning machine after his triumph in the legislative elections two and a half years ago under the promise of achieving Brexit, Boris Johnson, 58, has seen this image crumble with the scandals that marred his mandate. It remains for the moment in theory in the shelter, the current rules among the conservatives preventing a new vote of no confidence before a year. Eager to show himself in business and on the international scene, Boris Johnson canceled last week a trip to the conservatives in the north of England to go to kyiv for the second time, alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, strong in the UK support in the face of the Russian invasion.

On the domestic front, the context is unfavorable for the Johnson government, with inflation at its highest in 40 years which is causing growing social unrest, and the recent failure of a controversial attempt to deport migrants. to Rwanda. All after months of soap opera partygate to which is now added the “Carriegate” on alleged repeated attempts by Boris Johnson to obtain paid positions for his wife Carrie.

“I don’t think people necessarily see the local candidate”said Margaret Ward, a 49-year-old receptionist, recently in Wakefield. “I believe they really look at what the government has done overall and take it into consideration”, she told AFP. Ryder Parfit, a retired lawyer, believes that the election will be decided on both local issues, because we were “underrepresented in the last two years”. But he also believes that there will be “remarks on the party leadership”, “with all that has happened”.

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