Labor won the Wakefield seat from the Conservatives with a majority of 4,925 votes after winning 48% of the vote. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were declared winners of the by-election in Tiverton and Honiton in southern England, overturning the Conservatives’ 24,000-seat majority to win by 6,144.
The results are a blow to Boris Johnson, with his authority taking another blow.
After being declared the new MP for Wakefield, Labour’s Simon Lightwood said the party’s win proved ‘contempt for this country is no longer tolerated’, while the Liberal Democrat winner in Devon addressed a direct message to the Prime Minister, saying: “It’s time to go and go now.”
Wakefield was among the so-called Red Wall seats in northern England that voted Conservative for the first time in generations in 2019.
It was one of the main victories for Mr Johnson’s party which secured its historic majority of 80 seats and allowed it to “get Brexit done”.
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By contrast, Tiverton and Honiton have been a Conservative stronghold since the seat was established in 1997.
Losses in both parts of the country as a crushing disappointment for the party.
While opinion polls had already suggested the government was likely to lose both seats, confirmation will do little to soothe MPs’ nerves.
Some party members are worried about how they can possibly win the next general election if they lose popularity among such a wide range of voters from 2019.
The Prime Minister is currently out of the country at a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda.
He will travel to a G7 summit in Germany and a NATO meeting in Italy before returning to Britain at the end of next week.
This means Mr Johnson will not be able to speak directly to his backbench MPs in person to try and rally support in the wake of the losses.
Earlier this month, the Tory leader narrowly won a vote of confidence from Tory MPs, with 41% of the parliamentary party voting against him.
But speaking to reporters in Africa yesterday, Mr Johnson said he would be ‘crazy’ to quit if his party lost the two seats.
Seeking to play down the significance of the losses, he added: “Come on, it was only a year ago that we won the Hartlepool by-election, which everyone thought was – you know, we didn’t. Hadn’t won Hartlepool since – I can’t remember when the Conservative Party last won Hartlepool…a long time.
“I don’t think that was ever the case.
“Governing parties don’t usually win by-elections, especially not mid-term. You know, I have a lot of hope but, you know, here it is. It’s just reality.