Voters go to the polls in two crucial by-elections

Voters will take part in by-elections in Wakefield, as well as in Tiverton and Honiton, both of which were called after previous Conservative MPs resigned in disgrace.

Polls are seen as a key test for Boris Johnson’s leadership two weeks after 148 of his own MPs voted to oust him in a vote of confidence.

In Wakefield, a former industrial area in West Yorkshire, former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan stepped down after being found guilty of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy and jailed for 18 months.


Former Wakefield Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan convicted of molesting teenager (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Wakefield was one of the so-called “Red Wall” seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being a Labor stronghold since the 1930s, but now Labor is looking to get it back.

In Devonian Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish, the Conservative MP since 2010, resigned after he admitted to watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.

The Liberal Democrats are the main contender in this rural southwest constituency, where they hope to repeat by-election wins in North Shropshire in December and Chesham and Amersham a year ago.

A victory for the Liberal Democrats would require the overthrow of the Conservative majority of 24,239, but party leader Sir Ed Davey was certain they were head to head with the Tories on the eve of the vote.


Tori Neil Parish resigns as MP for Tiverton and Honiton after viewing pornography in the House of Commons (Chris McAndrew/UK MP/Pennsylvania)

Residents are “fed up with Boris Johnson’s lies and neglect,” he said, urging them to support his party’s candidate, former soldier Richard Furd.

“Farmers have been sold out due to foreign trade deals, people are struggling to access general practitioners and dentists, and local roads and schools have been destroyed.

“Families are facing rising gas bills and food prices, and this government’s only response is to continually raise taxes.”

The prime minister urged voters to “come out for British food and agriculture” by supporting Tori Helen Herford, a former headmaster.

In a video posted to social media on Wednesday, Mr Johnson appeared with the candidate at a farm, saying the party was working to protect “our fantastic food and agriculture industry and “the amazing agricultural sector.”

The loss of the Tory stronghold will be seen as a sign of Mr. Johnson’s declining electoral appeal after partygate and amid the cost-of-living crisis and could spark further backlash against his power.

The Tories face a bigger challenge in keeping the Wakefield seat, and Labor is now in the running to knock over the Conservatives’ 2019 majority of 3,358.

Conservative candidate Nadeem Ahmed raised eyebrows when he said last week that voters should still trust the party after Mr Khan’s sexual assault conviction, just as they still trust general practitioners despite the mass murderer’s crimes. Harold Shipman.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said that a victory in the northern constituency “could be the birthplace of the next Labor government”.


Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer told supporters in Wakefield that a victory there could herald the next Labor government (Dave Higgens/Pennsylvania).

On the eve of the opening of the polls, he said: “The public is fed up with Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, which promises a lot but never delivers.

“Labor Party candidate Simon Lightwood has campaigned positively – with a plan to bring well-paying jobs and investment to Wakefield, bring more cops to the streets to combat antisocial behavior and fight to reverse unfair National Insurance growth.

“But voting for anyone other than Labor would let Boris Johnson off the hook. The people of Wakefield have a chance to send a message to the Tories that enough is enough.”

If the Conservatives are defeated in both by-elections, it will be only the seventh time the government has suffered such a double defeat since World War II.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the Conservatives’ defeat “probably didn’t matter much” to Mr Johnson’s position, as the prime minister would say “that result was priced in”.

Sir Vince told the PA news agency: “He breaks dead ends very well.

“I think the real problem for the Conservative government at the end of this year is when the economy is getting worse and worse and we have high inflation, a potential recession, a sliding pound, the state budget is under more and more pressure.”

The polling place for both by-elections will be open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm on Thursday, with results expected from 4:00 am to 6:00 am on Friday.