From north to south, British Prime Minister Johnson faces the prospect of defeats in early elections

From north to south, British Prime Minister Johnson faces the prospect of defeats in early elections

By Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill

TIVERTON/WAKEFIELD, England (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could lose two parliamentary seats this week that have already illustrated his broad appeal, showing his waning popularity that could spur his party to try to find a way to overthrow him. it.

His Conservative party is running two elections on Thursday: one in Tiverton and Honiton, a deeply conservative corner of Devon, in southwest England, and another in the former industrial area of ​​Wakefield, in northern England, which voted for his party for first time. in 90 years in 2019.

Defeat in either seat could further damage Johnson’s reputation for winning votes, and see lawmakers who fear for his future try to act against him, despite giving him a hold on calling and losing a vote of confidence against him in the beginning of this month.

Johnson secured the biggest Conservative majority in three decades in the 2019 national election, overturning conventional British politics and winning both in the traditional Conservative southern heartland and more industrial areas in central and northern England.

But now, support for the party is eroding in both areas and could prompt some Conservative lawmakers to try to shorten the 12-month grace period between calling for confidence votes. About 41% of Johnson’s lawmakers voted to remove him this month.

The secondary elections were sparked by high-profile resignations from Conservative lawmakers – one who admitted to watching pornography in parliament and another found guilty of sexually abusing a teenager.

In the rural town of Tiverton, Jenny Kane, 72, a part-time yoga teacher, said she had voted Conservative but would not now because of unresolved tensions with the European Union and “partygate” when Johnson took part in the lockdown. funky parties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t think he did Brexit,” she told Reuters. “Partygate is the last straw. I’m disgusted.” Kane said he would vote for the centrist and pro-EU Liberal Democrats instead.

Reuters spoke to at least 30 people in both locations asking the same questions about policy areas. While voters in Devon focused on partygate, the Rwandan government’s deportation policy and Brexit, they were more focused on the cost-of-living crisis in Wakefield.

‘UNCONSCIOUS BEHAVIOR’

Tiverton has voted Conservative in every election for nearly a century, and in 2019, the party won a majority of nearly 25,000 votes.

“I would have voted Conservative if it weren’t for the situation with immigration flights to Rwanda. It made a huge difference to my husband and I,” said Lizzie Bowman, 58, describing the situation as “unscrupulous behavior.”

Several voters in Tiverton who voted for the Conservatives indicated they were unlikely to vote at all, while those who opposed the Conservatives were tactically voting for the option most likely to remove them.

While there is little credible polling 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 inflation in three decades.

Barbara Lawson, a 54-year-old shopkeeper who voted Conservative in 2019 but can now vote for the main opposition Labor Party, said she doesn’t fully understand the government’s Brexit or Rwanda’s deportation strategy.

Lawson said the rising cost of living meant his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were cutting back on their food expenses and struggling to move from their two-bedroom apartment to a larger place, despite both parents working full-time.

Lawson said he knew people who started using food banks and friends who said they were worried about stopping using their cars because of the rising cost of gasoline.

“People’s concerns here are very everyday,” she said. “Even people with good jobs are suffering right now.”

But one aspect that works in Johnson’s favor may be the near-unanimous lack of enthusiasm for Labor leader Keir Starmer.

Geoff Hook, 57, who works in arts education, said he recently resigned from his labor affiliation after nearly four decades because he felt he no longer understood what it meant.

“Labour seems to be without direction at the moment,” he said. “Starmer doesn’t seem to have much of a personality, so he struggles to connect with people.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Alison Williams)

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