Prime minister Boris Johnson’s authority is “draining away”, a former Conservative MP has said, in the wake of the governing party losing two by-elections.
“[Johnson’s] authority is very significantly diminished,” Gavin Barwell told Sky News on Friday. “The Conservative party turned to Boris Johnson, because it saw him as an election winner, there’s not . . . a deep love or affection for him among Conservative MPs.
“What we’re seeing is a process of [Johnson’s] authority draining away,” he said.
In Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, Liberal Democrat Richard Foord overturned a Conservative majority of 24,239 votes, and won the local election by 6,144 votes. The Tories have held Tiverton and Honiton since its creation in 1997.
Elsewhere, Labour regained Wakefield after Simon Lightwood beat his Conservative rival Nadeem Ahmed by 4,925 votes.
“If the Conservative party carries on as it is . . . it is sleep walking to a defeat at the next [general] election,” said Lord Barwell. “If the Conservative party changes its leader and it changes its direction . . . if it does those two things it could still win.
“The Tiverton result is catastrophic,” he added. “It’s one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.”
Lord Barwell said Tiverton was a “strongly Leave supporting constituency” — a reference to the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
“So for the Liberal Democrats to be winning there — and winning comfortably — it means that there’s a whole swath of seats across the south of the country that are vulnerable,” he added.
Oliver Dowden was due to appear on Sky, but resigned as party chair early on Friday.