Oliver Dowden resigns as Tory chair after Conservatives lose two by-elections

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Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield.

The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41% of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

“Our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings.

“We cannot carry on with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.”

“I will, as always, remain loyal to the Conservative Party.”

A dramatic swing of almost 30% from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats saw Richard Foord secure a majority of 6,144 in Tiverton and Honiton.

Wakefield by-election
Simon Lightwood has become Wakefield’s new MP (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Foord said: “The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for Britain. They sent a loud and clear message – it’s time for Boris Johnson to go, and go now.”

He said that “every day Boris Johnson clings to office he brings further shame, chaos and neglect”.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“They cannot afford to ignore this result.”

He said it was “time for Conservative MPs to finally do the right thing and sack him”.

Tiverton and Honiton by-election
The Liberal Democrats’ Richard Foord (left) has called on Mr Johnson to leave Downing Street (Andrew Matthews/PA)

In Wakefield, Simon Lightwood was elected with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7% from the Tories to Labour.

The previous Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan quit after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy – a crime for which he was jailed for 18 months.

Wakefield was one of the so-called red wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being Labour since the 1930s.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“They have said, unreservedly: Boris Johnson, your contempt for this country is no longer tolerated.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Wakefield has shown the country has lost confidence in the Tories.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

He said the result showed Labour “is back on the side of working people, winning seats where we lost before, and ready for government”.

Mr Johnson, who is at a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Rwanda, suggested it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats and said mid-term by-elections were “never necessarily easy for any government”.

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