Conservative MPs concerned about retaining seats after double defeat in by-election

Conservative MPs said it would “no doubt” be difficult to keep their seats in the next general election after the double defeat in the by-election.

The party ceded its former strongholds of Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats and surrendered Wakefield to Labor in Thursday night’s by-election.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted the results were “tough” but vowed to “keep going” despite the losses, which dealt another blow to his credibility.

In the meantime, Conservative Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden resigned, saying he and the Tory supporters were “bitter and disappointed by recent events”, telling Mr Johnson “Someone has to take charge”.

Now, Conservative MPs are expressing concern about the possibility of retaining seats for the Conservatives.

Grand Conservative Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said it would “no doubt” be “difficult” to hold his seat if a by-election were now held in his constituency.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Cotswolds MP and treasurer of the 1922 committee said: “I do think that if I had to run under a bus today it would be hard for me to hold my seat.” There is no doubt about this.

“I am very sorry for all our volunteers, and indeed my colleagues, and myself, who worked very hard in these by-elections, but were simply defeated by the situation in which we are now.”

Conservative MP Jesse Norman, who wrote to Johnson earlier in June that he was withdrawing his support because of the partygate scandal and his government’s lack of “sense of mission,” reiterated his concerns about their impact on the electorate.

Mr. Nroman tweeted a quote from that letter on Friday morning, writing: “The fact that you continue this charade not only offends the electorate and the people who support, volunteer to represent and campaign for our party; this makes a decisive change of government in the next election much more likely.

“It’s potentially catastrophic for this country.”

Meanwhile, fellow Tory Lord Barwell said that the outcome of Tiverton and Honiton was “disastrous” for the Conservatives and that other places in the south were “vulnerable”.

He told Sky News: “This is one of the safest places for conservatives in the country. These are voters who strongly support immigrants.

“So if the Liberal Democrats are winning there, and winning comfortably, that means there are a number of vulnerabilities in the south of the country.”

Sir Robert Buckland said he told Johnson he needed to “look in the mirror and do better” as he told Sky News that the Conservative Party “is not one man”.

I think, in fact, if I ran under a bus today, it would be hard for me to hold my seat.Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

The former Lord Chancellor admitted that those on the sidelines of the party were “disappointed” by the government’s seeing “lack of attention” but did not call for the resignation of the prime minister, saying he did not believe “to dump the captain now” would be the correct answer.

“What is frustrating for those of us who are on the sidelines right now, if you will, is the lack of attention and a real sense of a coordinated message about what the government is doing and what it needs to do,” he said.

“The Conservative Party is a broad coalition of people who have different views on the center-right in politics. We should reflect this much better – we are not a sect, we are not some iconoclastic tribe trying to overthrow the state.”

A by-election, triggered by the resignation of the disgraced Tories, gave voters the opportunity to hand down their verdict on the prime minister just weeks after 41% of his MPs voted against him.

In the Devon rural constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority and won, while Labor reclaimed Wakefield.

Mr. Johnson sought to take his mind off a by-election defeat tied to his leadership when he spoke to Rwandan TV presenters on Friday morning.

He said: “I think governments should also recognize that I don’t want to downplay what voters say, but it’s also true that in the medium term, post-war governments lose elections.

“I think if you look back at May last year, it’s really amazing that we managed to win Hartlepool under very different circumstances.”

Mr Johnson said the country was facing pressure on the cost of living, adding: “We have to recognize that we still have a lot to do and we will definitely do it; we will continue to solve people’s problems until we get through this patch.”