British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday suffered a crushing by-election defeat in a constituency never previously lost by his Conservative Party, a result which raises serious questions about his leadership.
His party won the seat in North Shropshire, central England, by a massive majority in 2019, but that was wiped out by the Liberal Democrats in Thursday’s vote in a result that will intensify the mutinous mood among Conservative MPs.
Johnson, 57, was already reeling after roughly 100 of his MPs rebelled in parliament Tuesday against the government’s introduction of vaccine passes for large events.
The UK leader’s authority has also been clobbered repeatedly in recent weeks by claims of corruption and reports that he and his staff broke coronavirus restrictions last Christmas.
Weeks of bad headlines turned what would normally be a routine victory in the safe rural seat – won by 23,000 votes just two years ago – into a shattering defeat of almost 6,000 votes, while surging virus cases have added to a sense of crisis.
The government reported nearly 89,000 new infections Thursday, the second consecutive record daily tally.
Winning candidate Helen Morgan said that voters had sent a message “loudly and clearly” to Johnson that “the party’s over.”
“Your government, run on lies and bluster will be held accountable. It can and will be defeated,” she vowed.
Defeat will likely see more MPs filing letters of no-confidence in their leader, which could trigger an internal party vote to remove him.
The same process saw his predecessor Theresa May ousted in mid-2019 after MPs including Johnson voted against her Brexit deal in parliament.