Oliver Dowden resigns as Conservative Party chairman after by-election: ‘We can’t continue with business as usual’ | Political news

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden resigned after the party suffered two defeats in by-elections.

Dowden said in a letter to Boris Johnson that the defeats they were “the last of a series of very bad results” and he added: “We cannot continue as before”.

He is the first cabinet minister to fall on his sword in the wake of pressure swirling around the prime minister over the partygate scandal, which has already seen 148 Conservative MPs oppose the prime minister in a vote of no confidence.

In a letter to Dowden, the prime minister said he understood the MP’s “disappointment” at the by-election defeats, but said the government had a “historic mandate” to govern.

Politics Hub: All the fallout as Boris Johnson suffers a triple whammy in the by-election

The Conservatives saw a majority of 24,000, or more than 40%, evaporate in Honiton and Tiverton, where they were defeated by the Liberal Democrats, a record setback for the party.

They also lost Wakefield, the “red wall” seat seized by the Tories in 2019, which reverted to Labour.

Dowden, who was due to appear in this morning’s round of interviews, said: “Our fans are distraught and disappointed by recent events, and I share their sentiments.

“We cannot continue with business as usual.

“Someone needs to take responsibility and I have come to the conclusion that in these circumstances it would not be right for me to continue in office.”

He added that it was a “deeply personal decision” and that “as always, he will remain faithful to the Conservative Party”.

Sky News political editor Beth Rigby understands the resignation caught Johnson by surprise.

A source close to the prime minister said he received a brief call from Dowden shortly after he made his decision public.

Sources close to the prime minister stressed that the news took him by surprise, particularly as the former president had been preparing PMQ with him on Wednesday and had warned that they were likely to lose both by-elections.

The hammering for Conservatives was Johnson’s last post-party election attack. lost nearly 500 council seats in local elections early last month.

They also suffered surprising results when the Liberal Democrats defeated large Conservative majorities in north shropshire Y Chesham and Amersham last year.

The fallout from the latest vote comes with the prime minister thousands of miles away in Rwanda, where he is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference.

He said before the result that it would be “madness” for him to resign if the Conservatives lost both seats.

And after the defeats, he stood his ground, saying it was normal for governments to be “punished at the ballot box” in the middle of their term.

Simon Lightwood, who won the Wakefield by-election for Labour, said: “I think people are absolutely tired of the lies and deceit that we have seen from the Prime Minister and they are demanding change and tonight is proof of that.” .

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Labor criticizes the ‘contempt’ of the prime minister

Analysis:
Oliver Dowden jumped, perhaps before he was pushed, but will others follow?
By-election defeats will seep slowly like poison into the Tory bloodstream.
The Conservatives suffer some of the worst by-election defeats since 1945

Richard Foord, who took Tiverton and Honiton for the Liberal Democrats, used his acceptance speech to ask Johnson to “go, and go now”, claiming his victory had “sent a shock wave through British politics”. “.

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

“This result is a clear judgment on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas.”

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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This should be a wake-up call to all Conservative MPs who support Boris Johnson. They cannot afford to ignore this result.”

“The public is fed up with Boris Johnson’s lies and breaches of the law and it is time for Conservative MPs to finally do the right thing and fire him.”

The by-elections, both in voting constituencies, were held on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

Each of these was prompted by the resignations of Conservative MPs: in Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish resigned after he admitted to viewing pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons; in Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan resigned after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

It became clear shortly after polls closed that it would be a bad night for the Tories.

Luke Hall, the party’s deputy chairman, told Sky News it had been a “challenging campaign” and noted the impact of the divisions highlighted by the confidence vote.

“I would certainly accept that disunity in political parties means that parties don’t win elections,” he said.

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