Voters go to the polls in two important by-elections

Voters will vote in the by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton, both started after previous Conservative MPs resigned in disgrace. The elections are seen as a significant test for Boris Johnson’s leadership after 148 of his own lawmakers voted to remove him in a trust vote.

In Wakefield, a former industrial area in West Yorkshire, former Conservative MP Imran Ahmed Khan stands up after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy and jailed for 18 months. Wakefield was one of the so-called Red Wall seats in the 2019 general election after being a Labor stronghold since the 1930s, but Labor is now hoping to take it back.

In Tiverton and Honiton, Devon, Tory MP since 2010, Neil Parish, resigned after admitting to viewing pornography on his phone in the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats are the main challenger in this rural Southwest constituency, where they are hoping for by-election victories in North Shropshire in December and Chesham and Amersham a year ago.

A victory for the Lib Dems would have required reversing a Conservative majority of 24,239, but party leader Sir Ed Davey was convinced he was “neck and neck” with the Tories on the eve of the vote. Residents are “fed of the lies and neglect of Boris Johnson,” he said, as he asked them to support his party’s candidate, former soldier Richard Ford.

“Farmers are sold out by foreign trade deals, people are struggling to reach GPs and dentists, and local roads and schools have been left to crumble. Families are facing rising petrol bills and food prices and the only answer from this government is to harass them with constant tax hikes.”

The prime minister urged voters to “stay up for British food and farming” by supporting former headteacher Tory Helen Hurford. In a video shared on social media on Wednesday, Mr Johnson appeared with the candidate on a farm, saying the party was working to protect “our fabulous food and agriculture industry and a “wonderful agricultural sector”.

Losing a Tory stronghold would be seen as a sign of Mr Johnson’s dwindling election appeal after partygate and amid a crisis of survival, and could spark another backlash against his authority.

The Tories face a formidable challenge retaining the Wakefield seat, with Labor now the favorite to reverse 2019’s Conservative majority to 3,358. Tory candidate Nadeem Ahmed raised eyebrows last week by arguing that even after Mr Khan’s sexual assault conviction, voters should trust the party just as they still trust the GP, despite the crimes of mass murderer Harold Shipman.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that victory in the northern constituency “could be the birthplace of the next Labor government”. On the eve of the start of the election, he said: “The public is fed up with Boris Johnson and a Conservative party that makes big promises but never delivers.

Labor candidate Simon Lightwood has run a positive campaign – with plans to attract well-paying jobs and investment to Wakefield, to bring more police to the streets to tackle antisocial behavior, and to bring unfair national To fight to end the insurance hike. But a vote for none other than Labor would get Boris Johnson off the hook. The people of Wakefield have a chance to send the message to the Tories that enough is enough.

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

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said a loss for Mr Johnson’s position was “probably not a big deal” for the Tories as the prime minister would say “this outcome has been priced”. Sir Vince told the PA news agency: “He is very good at avoiding tight corners.

“I think the real problem for the Tory government is at the end of this year when the economy is going to get worse and worse and we have high inflation, a possible recession, a sliding pound, the government budget under more and more pressure.”

Polling stations for both the bypolls will remain open from 7 am to 10 pm on Thursday, with the results expected between 4 am and 6 am on Friday.

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