/Britain’s Conservatives Lose ‘Safe’ Seat, Dealing a Blow to Boris Johnson – The New York Times

Britain’s Conservatives Lose ‘Safe’ Seat, Dealing a Blow to Boris Johnson – The New York Times


Although the Liberal Democrats had hoped to pull off a surprise victory, the size of their majority was striking and unexpected. Ed Davey, the leader of the party, described the result as “a watershed moment,” adding in a statement, “Millions of people are fed up with Boris Johnson and his failure to provide leadership throughout the pandemic, and last night, the voters of North Shropshire spoke for all of them.”

Oliver Dowden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, acknowledged the scale of the defeat. “I know that voters in North Shropshire are fed up, and I know that they have given us a kicking,” he told the BBC, adding that he and his party had “heard that message from them loud and clear.”

Even before the loss of the seat, there was speculation that Mr. Johnson could face a formal challenge to his leadership little more than two years after he won a landslide general election victory in December 2019.

Roger Gale, a veteran Conservative lawmaker and a critic of Mr. Johnson, told Sky News that the prime minister had about three weeks over the holiday period to regroup, but would have to do so very fast. “We’ve had two strikes: First of all, the Conservative Party in the House of Commons earlier this week, now this result,” Mr. Gale said. “One more strike, and I think he’s out.”

To initiate a no-confidence vote, 54 of Mr. Johnson’s lawmakers would have to write to Graham Brady, the chairman of the committee that represents Conservative backbenchers. Such letters are confidential, but analysts do not believe that prospect is close. Parliament is now in recess, giving the prime minister a short political breathing space.

Even so, Friday’s result is likely to increase jitters in Downing Street because North Shropshire was one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats, in an area of Britain that supported Brexit, Mr. Johnson’s defining political project.

Despite their pro-European stance, the Liberal Democrats — who finished well behind Labour in North Shropshire in the 2019 general election — successfully presented themselves as the only credible challengers to the Tories in the constituency.

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