Europe

Boris Johnson fears people will ‘beat me up’ after by-elections loss- ‘Got to learn’

Boris Johnson delivers Commonwealth speech in Rwanda

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Mr Johnson was speaking at a news conference in Rwanda hours after the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win the Devon seat of Tiverton and Honiton, while Labour took back the red wall constituency of Wakefield in Yorkshire. Mr Johnson told reporters in Kigali: “I’m not going to pretend these are brilliant results.

“We’ve got to listen, we’ve got to learn.

“When people are finding it tough, they send messages to politicians and politicians have got to respond – and that’s what we’re doing.”

Asked if he was worried about Conservative colleagues plotting to replace him while he was abroad, the PM bluntly replied: “The answer to the question is no.”

Mr Johnson warned the public that “no doubt there will be some tough times ahead” but claimed his government understands “how to fix our economic issues”.

The Tory party’s poor by-election performances overnight led to the resignation of Conservative Chairman Oliver Dowden, who told the PM: “We cannot carry on with business as usual.”

Former Conservative leader Michael Howard has urged Mr Johnson to resign for the good of their party and the nation, as he urged the cabinet to consider resigning to force him out.

However, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries defended the prime minister, calling the results a “reminder that we must be relentless in cracking on with the job of delivering”.

She also claimed by-elections were “useless… as an indication of absolutely anything at all”, adding the government would “remain relentlessly focused” on delivering for the public.

Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said there was “a lot of distaste” for the PM on the doorstep when Labour were campaigning in Wakefield.

She told Sky News that voters were “genuinely feeling that this is a government that simply isn’t working”.

However, she said the “storming result” for her party was not just “people turning away from the Tories”, but constituents “looking towards Labour again”, and its leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the Conservatives “need to listen” to its voters, especially those who stayed at home, adding: “We need to give them reasons to come back at the next election. We do that with a laser-like focus on delivery.”

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But he felt short of explicitly backing Mr Johnson, adding: “The voters will judge this Conservative government on what we deliver next. For me, it’s a focus on skills, schools and families.”

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