Weakened by scandals, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces two difficult by-elections on Thursday, 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 fuss, the prospect for the Tories of losing two seats in Parliament risks accentuating the climate of distrust within the majority.
Conservatives in trouble
The two elections are held following less than rosy affairs for the Conservatives, in constituencies heavy with political meaning.
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 opposition leader Keir Starmer claimed that Wakefield “could be the birthplace of the next Labor government”.
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.
Le « Tractorgate »
In Tiverton and Honiton, a constituency in south-west England that has been conservative 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”.
The Liberal Democrats hope to win, as they did last December in North Shropshire, a very rural conservative bastion in northern England, lost after a lobbying scandal.
No new vote of no confidence
Sign of the unease and the magnitude 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 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 sheltered, the current rules among the conservatives preventing a new vote of no confidence before a year.