Defiant Boris Johnson vows to fight on after by-elections - as Lord Hague warns of 'disaster'

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·91 min read
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Boris Johnson was unfazed by the double by-election defeat as he promised the Government would keep delivering for voters - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Boris Johnson was unfazed by the double by-election defeat as he promised the Government would keep delivering for voters - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A defiant Boris Johnson promised to battle in the wake of a historic double by-election defeat - as former Tory leader Lord Hague warned the party could face "disaster" at the next national poll.

Mr Johnson was speaking at the Chogm summit of Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda after the Tories were defeated by the Liberal Democrats back home in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election - with Sir Ed Davey's party overturning a 24,000-vote majority. The PM's party has also lost Wakefield to Labour.

"I think that we have the best way forward, I think that we understand how to fix our economic issues, and that is what we are going to achieve," Mr Johnson told a press conference. "I've got to be clear with people as I was during the pandemic. I think it will take some time and there will still be some tough times ahead.

"No doubt people will continue to beat me up - and say this or that and to attack me. That's fine, that's quite right. That is the job of politicians. In the end voters, journalists - they have no one else to make their complaints to. I have to take that."

Speaking to Times Radio, Lord Hague suggested members of the Cabinet should "steel themselves" to act and said he would resign if he was one of Mr Johnson's ministers - warning the party was "potentially heading towards a disaster" amid a "tremendous loss of faith among party activists as well as voters around the country".

08:02 PM

That's all for this week...

As Boris Johnson took a dip in his hotel pool in Kigali early this morning, voters back in Britain had plunged his premiership firmly into ‘sink-or-swim’ territory.

Once Mr Johnson was out of the pool, Oliver Dowden, one of his early leadership supporters and a staunch loyalist in the Cabinet, had quit as Tory chairman, warning that “business as usual” would not be good enough.

It is hard to overstate the significance of today’s results. Tiverton and Honiton, with its previous Conservative majority of 24,239, only ever elected true blue MPs. That all changed today, as Richard Foord pulled off the biggest swing ever seen at a British by-election.

Boris Johnson insisted on getting on with the job as he gave a press conference in Kigali - Dan Kitwood/PA Wire
Boris Johnson insisted on getting on with the job as he gave a press conference in Kigali - Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

Up north, there was little more reason for optimism in Wakefield as Labour regained the ‘Red Wall’ seat just three years on from 2019's Tory landslide. Not because of particular enthusiasm for Sir Keir Starmer, but after a decline in the popularity of the Tory party and PM alike.

The next stop for Mr Johnson, currently in Rwanda, is the G7 summit. But when he finally returns to Britain, questions about his leadership – and the Government’s responses to inflation, strikes and the cost of living – will have not gone away.

07:57 PM

Nicola Sturgeon under pressure to sack Ian Blackford

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to sack her Westminster leader after admitting that he had questions to answer over his support for an MP found guilty of sexual misconduct.

The First Minister piled pressure on Ian Blackford by stating there were "questions here to be addressed and answered" by her Westminster group of MPs over their backing of Patrick Grady.

She insisted Mr Blackford felt “deep regret” that Grady’s victim felt "unsupported" by the party after lodging a complaint and backed her Westminster leader to continue in the role.

However, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, questioned how she could simultaneously criticise Mr Blackford over his handling of the complaint while insisting he had her support.

​Simon Johnson, our Scottish Political Editor, has the story

07:40 PM

Don’t get carried away with Wakefield by-election win, Keir Starmer warned

Sir Keir Starmer still has "work to do" despite his party’s by-election win in Wakefield, shadow cabinet sources have told The Telegraph.

The Labour leader was jubilant on a victory lap of the constituency on Friday, where he told reporters that "the next government is going to be a Labour government – and the sooner, the better".

Sir Keir Starmer and Simon Lightwood, Labour's newest MP, were all smiles in Wakefield today - Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Sir Keir Starmer and Simon Lightwood, Labour's newest MP, were all smiles in Wakefield today - Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Simon Lightwood was elected to the seat with a majority of almost 5,000 votes, wrenching it back to Labour control after it fell to the Tories at the 2019 election.

Sir Keir said that the 12 per cent swing to his party was "significant,” adding: "This is a historic by-election as far as we’re concerned." But those around the Labour leader have urged him not to become "complacent" and pointed to further work needed to "set out the stall" for his party.

Tony Diver, our Whitehall Correspondent, has the story

07:29 PM

'One of the darkest days for women's rights'

The First Minister described today as "one of the darkest days for women's rights" after Roe v Wade was overturned by America's Supreme Court.

Writing on Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon said:

07:22 PM

Minister: Situation will be 'different' but 'difficult' at general election

Britons will vote at the next generation based on "what's in their pocket", a business minister has said as he admitted the Government must "reflect" on last night's results.

Paul Scully told BBC Newsnight: "The Prime Minister has listened to the not good result, clearly not good, results for us yesterday in Tiverton and Wakefield.

"We need to reflect on that as a government, he needs to reflect on that as a Prime Minister and that's what he's said he's going to do. It's absolutely true that [this] does happen midterm but I think this isn't business as usual. He needs to reflect, we need to reflect and that's what we've all said that we are going to do.

"In terms of midterm, Margaret Thatcher lost 15 by-elections throughout the 80s and won three general elections... But we can't take it for granted because, yes, people will vote at the general election for what's in their pocket, what their job prospects are and how they feel the economy is going to match up with their aspirations.

"The situation at a general election will be different but it will be difficult and it will only work for us if we face into that."

07:06 PM

There is no pact with Labour, Sir Ed Davey insists

Sir Ed Davey has brushed off suggestions of an election pact with Labour after his party's triumph in Tiverton and Honiton, compared to a weaker showing in Wakefield.

"I'm being honest with people - there is no pact, there is no deal," the Liberal Democrat leader told Newsnight.

"But the Liberal Democrats are fighting in areas where we believe we can win. Here in Tiverton and Honiton in Devon we've had a legacy.

"We've had lots of MPs and councillors here over the decades. So it is very clear that this was a seat that we could win if we tried, and we tried and we campaigned hard."

06:59 PM

Jack Straw: How I know it’s curtains for the Johnson regime

How I felt for Dominic Raab on Friday morning as he did the rounds of the broadcasters to explain away the disasters for his party of the Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield by-elections, writes Jack Straw.

The rictus smile, the calm, carefully modulated tones of reassurance that the Government would stay on track, and had a plan (not least to win the next general election).

I did the same gig in the last two years of the Gordon Brown government. I always hoped that someone might be convinced by what I was saying – and not notice my inner voice telling me that the game was up. Whenever the general election came, it would be curtains for Labour.

Governments can, for sure, lose by-elections with large swings against them, and win the following general election.

Jack Straw: Why all Tories can look forward to as ministers is their P45s

06:47 PM

'Great Britain is decaying before our eyes'

Britain isn’t working – and that’s surely the main reason why the Conservatives lost Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield, writes Camilla Tominey.

Debating whether Boris Johnson is still the Tories’ prize pooch is a bit of a dead cat right now. Because in reality these results speak less about "Big Dog" and more to the growing sense that our beloved country is going to the dogs.

"It’s bizarre that a socialist like Lynch appears to be winning the argument on strikes... But then again, there’s a gap in the market for someone offering any alternative analysis on why Britain is broken and what needs to be done to fix it" - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty
"It’s bizarre that a socialist like Lynch appears to be winning the argument on strikes... But then again, there’s a gap in the market for someone offering any alternative analysis on why Britain is broken and what needs to be done to fix it" - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Yes, partygate was a factor. Voters were still angry that a government which set a ridiculous set of rules then went on to break them while pretending that they hadn’t. It shouldn’t have happened, it was badly handled and it has consequently tarnished the Tories’ reputation as the party of law and order.

Yet according to the activists who spent recent weeks leafleting the cul de sacs of this once "true blue" constituency, the number one concern on the doorstep in Tiverton and Honiton actually had nothing to do with Westminster politics. It was a local issue concerning Tiverton High School.

Camilla Tominey: The public's view is clear - the UK has gone wrong

06:30 PM

‘Anyone but Boris’ majority could vote tactically to doom the Tories

Predictions of electoral Armageddon on the back of by-election results tend to prove premature, but for the Tories there is one nightmare scenario that could yet come back to haunt them.

The most worrying aspect of their record-breaking defeat in Tiverton and Honiton was not the collapse in the Conservative vote, but the devastating effect of tactical voting in shutting them out from the ballot box.

There is one particularly nightmarish scenario for the Tories at the next general election - Dan Kitwood/Pool via Reuters
There is one particularly nightmarish scenario for the Tories at the next general election - Dan Kitwood/Pool via Reuters

The electorate, rather than political parties, formed a pact with each other to do whatever it took to defeat Boris Johnson’s party. If the same were to happen again in a national poll, the result could be seismic.

In Tiverton, the raw numbers were bad enough - a 24,239 Tory majority converted into a 6,144 Liberal Democrat majority with a swing of 29.9 per cent. It was the Conservatives’ worst ever numerical, as opposed to proportional, reversal at a by-election.

Gordon Rayner and Ben Butcher dissect the data

06:19 PM

We will fight Labour where we can at an election, insist Lib Dems

Layla Moran has denied any formal or informal 'pact' between Labour and the Liberal Democrats after their respective good results in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton.

"It's just so obvious we've never been competitive in Wakefield. They knew that we used to have loads of MPs not far from this seat," she told Times Radio.

Richard Foord is the latest Liberal Democrat to join the party's ranks of MPs after his historic Tiverton victory - Justin Tallis/AFP
Richard Foord is the latest Liberal Democrat to join the party's ranks of MPs after his historic Tiverton victory - Justin Tallis/AFP

"If you look where the electoral tectonics are shifting it's just obvious that Labour are going to be competitive in different swathes of seats from the Liberal Democrats. But in seats like Sheffield Hallam we're not going to hold back. It's us versus Labour there and we will be fighting."

"What we do is we look at seats where we're most competitive and that's where we put our resourcing. It's in everyone's interests, especially if we want to oust the Tories, but also from our perspective because we don't want to waste the precious money we have and we don't have a lot of it"

06:02 PM

Breaking: Ministers should consider resigning as Tories headed for disaster, warns Lord Hague

William Hague urged Cabinet members to consider resigning as he warned the Conservative Party is "potentially heading for a disaster".

"As you may recall, I wrote three weeks ago in the Times that I thought Boris Johnson's situation was unsustainable and he ought to find an honourable exit," Lord Hague told Times Radio.

"Before, this was unsustainable. When a party chairman resigns at 5.30 in the morning after by-election results without any word of support for the Prime Minister in his letter, that really is the code for saying other people - as well as the party chairman - now have to try to do something about this.

"Of course, many in the party are looking to members of the Cabinet to assert the views of so many in the party after the vote of no confidence was held rather premature... There comes a point for a party where it is potentially heading towards a disaster and there's tremendous loss of faith among party activists as well as voters around the country. There does come a point where Cabinet members need to steel themselves to do that. That's what I would do if I was in the Cabinet today."

05:52 PM

PM doing 'nowhere near enough' to tackle starvation, says charity

Boris Johnson has been criticised by UK development charities by doing "nowhere near" enough to tackle global starvation due to food prices, reports Mason Boycott-Owen.

The Prime Minister today announced a £372 million package to help countries hit by rising global food costs and committed to reviewing the biofuel mandate so crops can be used for food rather than fuel.

Bond, which represents UK organisations working in international development, said that Mr Johnson’s move must be part of a bigger plan.

"The plan to review the biofuel mandate to combat soaring prices is promising, but should not be an excuse to continue using environmentally damaging fossil fuels – especially coal, which would violate international commitments," said Stephanie Draper, Bond’s CEO.

"The UK government should instead see this as an opportunity to double-down on renewable energy.

"Finally, this £372milion must be additional to the already-diminished UK aid budget. If we are not providing additional help in this situation then we unfairly deprive life-saving support from other marginalised people around the world in the grips of extreme poverty, conflict and inequality."

05:43 PM

Baroness Scotland of Asthal re-elected as Secretary General of the Commonwealth

Baroness Scotland of Asthal has been re-elected as Secretary General of the Commonwealth, in a blow for the Prime Minister who attempted to have her ousted by backing a rival candidate, Camilla Turner, our Chief Political Correspondent, reports from Rwanda.

The Labour peer, who currently holds the post, will now serve a second term in office, following hours of crunch talks on Friday afternoon at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Rwanda.

Boris Johnson had publicly backed Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s foreign minister, as the next Secretary-General.

Conceding defeat, Ms Johnson Smith congratulated Lady Scotland and thanked those who backed her campaign.

Read more: Baroness Scotland re-elected to chief Commonwealth role

05:40 PM

Tiverton is 'off the scale' and something must be done, warns Lord Hague

William Hague described the Tiverton and Honiton result as "off the scale" as he said "something has to be done" to resolve the plight of the Conservatives.

"He's certainly not going to intend to budge although we could come to whether he ought to," Lord Hague said of the Prime Minister as he spoke to Times Radio.

"None of this means that we know any of this about the result of the next general election... Of course by-elections do show if there's a problem and the severity of a result has to be taken into account.

"These are pretty much off the scale particularly, the Tiverton and Honiton result is really one off the scale of by-election election history. So this is very, very bad for the Conservative Party. It doesn't mean any other party is going to win a general election but it means the Conservatives have got a very,very big problem and something has to be done."

05:34 PM

London will be bombed first if there's a Third World War, claims Russian politician

London would be the first city to be bombed in the case of a Third World War, a Russian MP has claimed.

Andrey Gurulyov, a State Duma politician, claimed that in the event of another war Russia would "destroy the entire group of enemy's space satellites during the first air operation".

"No one will care if they are American or British, we would see them all as Nato," he said on Russia’s Rossiya 1 channel, amid tension between Russia and Nato over the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

"Second, we'll mitigate the entire system of anti-missile defence, everywhere and 100 percent.

"Third, we certainly won't start from Warsaw, Paris or Berlin. The first to be hit will be London - it’s crystal clear that the threat to the world comes from the Anglo-Saxons."

Claudia Rowan has more on our Ukraine live blog

05:17 PM

'A vote is a vote'

Matt Hancock described the Conservatives as "needing to protect the country from [the] very grave threat" of a Labour and SNP coalition at the next election.

He said the debate on Boris Johnson's leadership had already taken place three weeks ago "and a vote is a vote... the Prime Minister has the confidence of the Parliamentary party and we move forward".

"I think the General Election is eminently winnable for the Conservative party. We have to deliver and we have to spend the next two years making that happening, making sure the economy is recovering, making sure the health service is in as good a shape as possible."

05:14 PM

Matt Hancock warns of 'Sturgeon and Starmer' pact

Asked if he is worried about today's results, Matt Hancock tells Times Radio: "It's a result that we really need to listen to, the Conservatives.

"But the most important thing is we need to pull together and deliver in order to be in a place in the next couple of years to fight off what is going to be obviously a challenging general election in which the only alternative will be a combination of Nicola Sturgeon and Keir Starmer.

"The key is to make sure that we focus on the things that really matter. People obviously across the country in all sorts of different seats, I think what I take away from this result is there is no alternative prime minister at all.

"There's clearly no enthusiasm for Keir Starmer. I just look back through my time in Parliament. In 2012 we lost Corby to an 8,000 Labour win. These sorts of results do happen... It's about by-elections being different to general elections, because in a general election you're choosing who do you want to be the Prime Minister tomorrow."

05:08 PM

Summer holidays in jeopardy as thousands of British Airways staff threaten strike

Summer holidays are under threat as thousands more British Airways workers could go on strike unless the airline grants pay rises.

Check-in staff at Heathrow Airport have already voted to walk out in a dispute over pay. Unite the Union has now said 16,000 BA workers, ranging from cabin crew to engineers, could join them.

In a consultative ballot of its members, Unite secured an overwhelming majority in favour of potential strike action. If it fails to reach an agreement with BA, the union will formally ballot its members.

Unite accused the airline of damaging staff morale after "two years of job and pay cuts".

​Gurpreet Narwan has the story

04:45 PM

Have a listen to this week's Chopper's Politics

The biggest rail strike in a generation might mean the trains are not moving, but politics certainly is.

Gordon Rayner joins Christopher Hope to chew the fat after the Conservatives faced bruising losses in both Tiverton and Honiton, and Wakefield, wonders whether there was a coded message in Oliver Dowden's resignation letter, after the Party Chairman fell on his sword in the early hours of Friday morning, and muses over if Johnson allies can still brush off criticism with claims he's a vote-winner.

Also on the podcast, Gabriel Milland, a former adviser to Boris Johnson and partner at Portland Communications, shares his 'purple patches' theory about why Red Wall vs Blue Wall oversimplifies the Tory vote - and why he believes the heart of the Tory party is shifting from Surrey to Stafford.

Make sure you have a listen here

04:30 PM

Defiant PM: People will 'beat me up' - but I have to get on with the job

Mr Johnson is asked about Oliver Dowden's comments about not being able to go on with 'business as usual' - and why he will not acknowledge being "part of the problem".

"On Oliver, I think he did a lot of good work particularly as chairman but also as Secretary of State for DCMS on broadband rollout, on veterans' affairs and other things and I thank him for his service. But I genuinely, genuinely don't think the way forward in British politics to focus on issues of personalities - whether they are mine or others.

"The way forward is to make arguments to people about change and improvement that we are delivering and that is what we want to do.

Boris Johnson has struck a defiant note at a press conference in Rwanda - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Boris Johnson has struck a defiant note at a press conference in Rwanda - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

"I think that we have the best way forward, I think that we understand how to fix our economic issues... and that is what we are going to achieve. I've got to be clear with people as I was during the pandemic. I think it will take some time and there will still be some tough times ahead.

"No doubt people will continue to beat me up - and say this or that and to attack me. That's fine, that's quite right. That is the job of politicians. In the end voters, journalists - they have no one to make their complaints to. I have to take that. But I also have to get on with the job of delivering for the people of this country. And that's what I was elected to do."

04:24 PM

Tax cutting 'the direction we're trying to go in'

Are taxes going to start falling for voters next year, Boris Johnson is asked.

"First of all I think most people... We went through a really miserable and expensive pandemic," he says.

"Thanks to the sensible management of the economy that Rishi has been engaged on, we're able now next month you'll see tax cuts of an average of £330 off everybody who pays National Insurance Contributions. We're already cutting tax by £150. We've cut fuel duty by a record amount.

"I say that not in any way - I know that that won't slake your thirst... satiate your appetite for tax cuts. But it shows the direction we're trying to go in. But you know you've got to be sensible, and you've got to be responsible at the same time.

"We're in a position still where we have to make sure that we look after people through tough times, and that's why the £1,200 we're giving the most vulnerable households is also very important."

04:22 PM

Roe vs Wade ruling 'a big step backwards' - PM

Should abortion rights be protected by the state in the wake of Roe vs Wade being overturned today?

"I think it's a big step backwards. I've always believed in a woman's right to choose and I stick to that view and that's why the UK has the laws that it does.

"We recently took steps to make sure that those laws were enforced throughout the whole of the UK."

04:21 PM

Boris Johnson: We will push on with Rwanda policy

Does Boris Johnson accept at least in part the narrative of him playing a personal part in the by-election defeats?

"If governments crumpled because of by-election results in the whole of the postwar period, we wouldn't have had many postwar governments. I'm afraid of course we need to listen to the messages that we're getting, we need to learn. But in the end we've got to get on and deliver with the British people and that is what we're doing."

On the £120million reportedly given by the British government which Rwanda has spent, Mr Johnson repeats his view Britain will be able to "go ahead and develop a solution that I think whose time has come".

"We're going to go ahead with the policy. You talk about whether we will get a refund, I'm confident it'll produce value for money - the current cost of our asylum system per year is around £1.2billion. This is a very, very expensive business already and I think the Rwanda partnership offers a good way forward."

04:18 PM

Tory party believes in cutting taxes, insists Johnson

The Prime Minister acknowledges the biggest single expenditure that British households face is tax.

"That's the biggest chunk that they contribute. We are the party that believes in cutting taxes, we are Government that believes in cutting taxes, and we want to get into a situation where - sensibly and responsibly - we can turbocharge the attractions of the UK as a place to come and invest, by having the best possible tax framework as well. For businesses and for families."

04:17 PM

'Some parts of our system need change and reform'

Asked by our own Camilla Turner if he worries Tory MPs will be plotting his demise in their absence, Mr Johnson is clear: "No".

And about whether Blue Wall voters across the country can be stopped from voting Liberal Democrat at the next general election, he responds: "What you have in this Government is a reforming government that has taken all sorts of very difficult and tough decisions. And if you look at what we did during Covid it wasn't easy, but we got some big decisions right."

He notes Britain had the first approved vaccine of any country in the world and came out of Covid faster than anybody else: "We're getting some big things done. We were the first European country to see the vital importance of helping Ukrainians."

Mr Johnson pledges his "undivided energy and attention on fixing the issues in the UK economy that cause unnecessary cost - and not just for consumers, but for people who need childcare, and for businesses as well. The UK is attracting huge, huge sums of investment right now, much more tech investment than any other country in Europe... There are some things that are going really, really well.

"But there are some parts of our system that need change and reform. The energy market is one, the housing market is one, the transport system is one... And we can do things that really help."

04:14 PM

Boris Johnson: 'I would hope' ministers are doing their jobs

Is Boris Johnson still confident in the support of his Cabinet in light of their relative silence today, one journalist asks - and is the PM disappointed with news of Baroness Scotland's re-election?

"I'm here in Rwanda, getting on with the Chogm summit which is incredibly important for our country and for our world. I know that in London ministers of all descriptions, Cabinet or otherwise, are getting on with the job of sorting out the cost-of-living pressures that people face and delivering on our agenda for change and reform and improvement and that is what I would hope they are doing," he says.

On Baroness Scotland, he adds: "I think it's a good day for democracy. What is the Commonwealth? It is an amazing group of 54 countries that share values, and in particular the idea of democracy and I work well with Baroness Scotland, have done for a very long time since I became foreign secretary I think and I look forward to working well with her in the next couple of years."

04:11 PM

'A good old chinwag' with the Prince

Boris Johnson declines to divulge details of his conversation with the Prince of Wales earlier today.

He describes it as a "good old chinwag and we certainly covered a lot of ground".

"What you can certainly take away from what the Prince had to say today in his opening address to the summit is that everyone can see the huge, huge progress that Rwanda has made."

04:11 PM

PM: Airline strikes would not be justified

On planned airline strikes this summer, Mr Johnson says: "I don't think there are justifications for these strikes but what I want is for people to get around the table and sort it out.

"When you look at what's happening with the railways... I think there's an overwhelming case for change and reform and improvement. This is a Government that is putting huge sums into the railways. I think taxpayers and farepayers have a right to demand improvements in the way those railways operate for that investment and that's what we're going to get."

04:09 PM

'It's a massive agenda for change and we're going to get on with it'

Pressed on his big asset, Mr Johnson responds: "I think what people want is a Government that focuses 100 per cent on their concerns and not on political consequences in Westminster.

"And I have absolutely no doubt that this is a Government that has achieved some remarkable things, and is going to continue to achieve some great things for the people of this country.

"I understand people's feelings, but we're going to get through them and I just remind you still we've got people in payrolled employment, 630,000 more than before the pandemic began. What we've got to do is make sure we continue with the work that we're doing to help people in the short-term with the pressure they're facing, but also deal with the issues in our supply chains, in our transport system, in our housing market, in our energy market.

"It's a massive agenda for change and we're going to get on with it."

04:07 PM

'We have the right programme, the right plan'

Asked about today's by-election results and if he has considered he is part of the problem, Mr Johnson says: "Of course people are going to want to look at political impacts and impacts on party politics of these by-elections. But I just remind you of the context in which we're operating.

"The world and the UK and other parts of the world are facing the price shocks caused by not just supply chain problems we've seen post-Covid, but also by the war in Ukraine. We're dealing with those with a huge amount of fiscal firepower."

He reels off a number of measures the Government is taking, including the warm homes discount and changes to the National Insurance threshold.

"When people are finding it tough they send messages to politicians, and politicians have to respond and that's what we're doing... But I think we have the right programme, the right plan for a stronger economy to get our country through it and come out stronger the other side."

04:05 PM

G7 to focus on getting economy 'back on track', says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson refers to the £372 million package of UK aid announced today for countries on the frontline of the food security crisis.

As the policy was announced Mr Johnson said: "The Government has put in place an unprecedented package of support to help the most vulnerable households in the UK deal with the rising cost of living.

"But it is also right that we step up to support countries on the frontlines of conflict and climate change, where an increase in the price of bread can mean the difference between a child living or dying.  From emergency food aid to reviewing our own biofuel use, the UK is playing its part to address this pernicious global crisis."

Speaking in Kigali, he says the G7 summit will at least in part focus on what western countries can do to increase food supplies and "get the world economy back on track".

04:03 PM

Boris Johnson: Commonwealth bearing brunt of Putin's folly

Boris Johnson is giving remarks at a press conference in Rwanda as he hails the country's decision to join the Commonwealth in 2009.

"There are few forums more quietly important for our nation's peace, prosperity and global influence. We benefit from the incredible Commonwealth advantage... of shared [a] language and institutions, which opens doors and cuts the cost of doing business.

"We want to seize these opportunities and that's why I announced major new British investments in green infrastructure projects as well as trade schemes designed to break down the barriers to doing business.

"More trade, more commerce, brings stability to other countries but it also cuts costs to British consumers and opens opportunities to UK business. Unfortunately that global prosperity and stability is being threatened by Vladimir Putin's unprovoked assault on Ukraine."

The PM notes many Commonwealth countries find themselves "bearing the brunt" of Putin's "folly", and points to Rishi Sunak's "unprecedented package" of financial support for Britons amid the cost-of-living crisis.

03:53 PM

Coming up

We are still set to hear from Boris Johnson imminently as he makes remarks at the Chogm summit of Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda.

But expect a lot of the focus to be on events back here after two bruising by-election defeats that have renewed doubts around his leadership - and raised the prospect of a Tory wipeout at the next general election.

03:37 PM

Sir Ed Davey: Lib Dems will unseat lots of Tory MPs

Triumphant new Lib Dem MP Richard Foord and party leader Sir Ed Davey headed an army of activists at a victory parade that brought the quaint market town of Tiverton to a standstill, Nick Gutteridge reports from Tiverton.

Underneath the central clock tower, standing next to a bloor door emblazoned with the words "it’s time to show Boris the door", Sir Ed vowed to drive more Tory MPs out of their seats.

He batted away a succession of doubtful questions from broadcasters about whether the Lib Dems can replicate their recent by-election successes at a General Election.

"I think there are a lot of Conservative MPs who fear we can", he boomed defiantly. "We are going to make advances and we are going to get rid of a lot of Conservative MPs."

03:25 PM

Breaking: PM's day goes from bad to worse as Baroness Scotland re-elected

Baroness Scotland has been reappointed as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

As Camilla Turner, our Chief Political Correspondent, points out, it comes as a blow for the Prime Minister - who attempted to oust her and had publicly backed a rival candidate.

In return, Lady Scotland’s camp accused Boris Johnson of pursuing a “vendetta” against her following a series of controversies that have blighted her term of office.

Lady Scotland’s future was decided at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) after she stood for reelection.

03:21 PM

Why the by-election results are hardly a Labour triumph

For all Lisa Nandy's talk of a "significant moment" for Sir Keir Starmer's Labour (see 3.31pm), not everyone is convinced - not least Telegraph columnist Tom Harris.

After all, he writes, even in Labour's newest seat of Wakefield there is still apprehension among Tory voters.

Even in a by-election, when tactical voting is easier to encourage and organise, there was a degree of indiscipline among those damned unreliable voters.

It suggests that Tory voters, even in Red Wall seats, are still not entirely confident about switching their votes directly to Labour.

In a general election, such reservations would be seriously damaging to the party’s hopes of a majority.

Tom Harris: The main stumbling block facing Labour at the next election

03:13 PM

Lisa Nandy: The joke is wearing thin

The shadow levelling up secretary has claimed "the joke with Boris Johnson really is starting to wear thin" among voters after Labour regained Wakefield.

Lisa Nandy told Sky News the party could "never be complacent" about its prospects, but talked up "a significant moment for us".

Lisa Nandy pictured with Simon Lightwood, the new Labour MP for Wakefield - Dave Higgens/PA Wire
Lisa Nandy pictured with Simon Lightwood, the new Labour MP for Wakefield - Dave Higgens/PA Wire

"Things that people thought were funny about him, the fact that he makes these big, bold claims and doesn't really deliver, that he looks around when he makes jokes and wisecracks and likes the political knockabout - I think people have had enough of that," Ms Nandy said.

03:06 PM

The Tories’ dismal performance, in eight key charts

The Conservatives are fighting a war on two fronts.

Six years to the day that new political battle lines were drawn after the outcome of the Brexit vote, Thursday’s by-election results highlight the cracks appearing in both Tory heartland and “Red Wall” seats in the North of England.

In Tiverton and Honiton, a “true blue” seat held by the Tories since its creation in 1997, the Liberal Democrats toppled a 24,239 majority.

Meanwhile in Wakefield, Labour made a gain in its own former heartland, receiving its largest majority in the constituency since 2001.

Ben Butcher looks at the Conservative cracks across Britain

03:00 PM

'The voters have spoken, and we need to listen'

The Conservatives "need to listen" to the public after the by-election results, Nadzhim Zahawi has said as he noted "Conservative voters in particular" stayed at home in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield yesterday.

"We need to give them reasons to come back at the next election," he wrote on Twitter. "We do that with a laser-like focus on delivery; this Government did it with vaccines, we are doing it on cost of living.

"The voters will judge this Conservative Government on what we do next. For me, it's a focus on skills, schools and families.

"New buildings for Tiverton High School was a big issue in the Tiverton result. We hear you - delivering on real issues like this should be our focus."

02:55 PM

What Boris Johnson and Prince Charles discussed over tea and croissants remains a mystery

It was the tete-a-tete that had been the talking point of the week. Would either the Prince of Wales or Boris Johnson dare to raise the thorny issue of the Rwanda migrant policy?

Would the Prime Minister wade in with a robust defence of the government strategy that the Prince is alleged to have described as "appalling"?

The meeting - at Kigali Convention Centre - was the first between the two men since the heir to the throne’s alleged comment, made in private, became public.

It was originally billed by the Prime Minister’s official spokesman as a "bilateral discussion".

But Clarence House swiftly played down the event, instead insisting that Mr Johnson would be "popping in" on the Prince for a cup of tea and an informal chat.

Victoria Ward, our Royal Correspondent, has the story

02:51 PM

Dowden and out? The resignation that spells trouble for the PM

Oliver Dowden’s announcement of his support for Boris Johnson was a key moment in his leadership campaign, and his resignation is significant, no matter how hard No 10 might try to downplay it.

Together with Rishi Sunak and Robert Jenrick, Mr Dowden was one of three rising stars of the party, first elected in 2015, who jointly declared their backing for Mr Johnson in the summer of 2019.

Oliver Dowden and Boris Johnson pictured during happier times at last year's Tory party conference - Jon Super/AP Photo / File
Oliver Dowden and Boris Johnson pictured during happier times at last year's Tory party conference - Jon Super/AP Photo / File

It was front-page news at the time, not least because the three men were seen as embodying the moderate centre-ground of the party that Mr Johnson needed to win.

Before they endorsed Mr Johnson, they had grilled him for an hour at Mr Jenrick’s house. The fact that Mr Johnson was prepared to put himself through such an interrogation is proof, if any were needed, of the importance to him of their support.

Gordon Rayner: As Tory chair folds, this serious departure matters

02:40 PM

PM's allies will try to block any rule change

Boris Johnson’s allies are plotting to thwart a new leadership challenge, The Telegraph can reveal, by attempting to block a change in party rules.

Tory whips are already planning how to get pro-Johnson MPs onto the 1922 Committee executive when its elections are held, expected next month.

The Prime Minister has a year’s protection from another leadership challenge after he won a confidence vote earlier this month, which saw 41 per cent of Tory MPs vote for his removal.

Could Boris Johnson soon face a second confidence vote? Not if his allies get their way - PA Wire
Could Boris Johnson soon face a second confidence vote? Not if his allies get their way - PA Wire

Speaking to GB News this afternoon, Andrew Bridgen, a critic of the Prime Minister, said he would "put my hat in the ring on a manifesto of a rule change".

"Clearly, if a majority of the committee are elected with that mindset, then the rules can be changed. If the committee is of such a composition, that would indicate that the party is ready for a vote of no confidence again."

Ben Riley-Smith and Christopher Hope have the story

02:25 PM

We shouldn't worry - and Labour's polling is 'atrocious', claims Tory loyalist

The Conservatives should not be worried about the "bigger picture" surrounding their by-election defeats, a Red Wall MP loyal to Boris Johnson has said.

Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, pointed to national polling carried out by Kantar this week which showed Labour with a voting lead intention of two points (36 to 34 per cent).

Other polling, including figures from Savanta this morning, has the gap as wide as 11 per cent.

Sharing the numbers on Twitter, Mr Clarke-Smith wrote: "A bit of context when looking at the bigger picture. You also have to say that, in the current climate, 36 per cent after 12 years in opposition is atrocious."

02:16 PM

Thatcher left office amid 'far less serious threat', says former foreign secretary

A former Tory foreign secretary has said Margaret Thatcher left office amid a "far less serious threat" to her leadership than the problems currently facing Boris Johnson.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served in Thatcher and Sir John Major's cabinets between 1986 and 1997, was asked by Sky News if the 1922 Committee was likely to change its rules to enable a fresh leadership challenge.

"I think the more crucial question at this precise moment given the resignation of a senior Cabinet minister on this very issue is what the views are not just of the Cabinet but of the 50 or 60 ministers of state, junior ministers, without whom the Government cannot function," Sir Malcolm said.

"If [Boris Johnson is] not willing to seek their views because he might be rather worried about what they might say to him, they must at least in some number come together and go and see him, unless they wish to give him their unqualified support.

"It doesn't require all of them. If a dozen ministers for example share these views on top of all 140 backbenchers, then that will be the end of his prime ministership."

02:09 PM

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna taking over to guide you through the rest of today's news and developments.

We're expecting to hear from Boris Johnson, who is in Kigali, Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), at a press conference shortly.

But while it was previously signalled the press conference would start at around 1.15pm, Sky News is reporting this has been pushed back to around 3pm.

Boris Johnson pictured at Chogm in Rwanda earlier this week - Dan Kitwood/Pool via Reuters
Boris Johnson pictured at Chogm in Rwanda earlier this week - Dan Kitwood/Pool via Reuters
Sir Keir Starmer and Simon Lightwood - Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Sir Keir Starmer and Simon Lightwood - Danny Lawson/PA Wire

01:58 PM

Nadine Dorries dismisses significance of by-election results

01:54 PM

Welsh Tory leader: PM must 'look in the mirror'

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies has said Boris Johnson needs to “look in the mirror” and ask himself whether he should stay in office.

“Each and every day the Prime Minister gets up, like any leader, they have to look in the mirror and ask themselves ‘can they continue to deliver for their country and for the people who have put them into office?’

“I presume that’s getting far more challenging when the Prime Minister looked in the mirror these days with the messages that are coming from the ballot box such as by-elections we had last night.”

01:33 PM

Lord Howard: 'The country needs new leadership'

Lord Howard said Boris Johnson should leave No 10 as a matter of urgency because the nation "needs new leadership".

Asked if it is urgent that the PM steps aside, the Tory heavyweight said: "I think it is, not only electorally but for the good of the country. I think the country needs new leadership and I think the time has now come to provide it.”

01:32 PM

Cabinet ministers should 'consider their positions'

Lord Howard, the former leader of the Conservative Party, said Cabinet ministers should now "very carefully consider their positions".

He told the BBC: “I think two things should happen. First of all members of the Cabinet should very carefully consider their positions as Oliver Dowden has done and it may be necessary for the Executive of the 1922 Committee to meet to decide to change the rules so that another leadership election could take place.

“Those are the two things which I think could make a difference but we shall have to see whether either of them comes about.”

01:26 PM

Lord Howard does not expect PM to quit

It is not "very likely" that Boris Johnson will follow the lead of Oliver Dowden and quit, Lord Howard has said.

Asked if he believed Mr Johnson should also resign, he told the BBC: “I do. I don’t think it is very likely that he will. There are others who can take action who could make that course come about.”

01:24 PM

'The electorate delivered its verdict'

Lord Howard, the former leader of the Conservative Party, was asked why he had decided to now call for Boris Johnson to quit having previously stopped short of doing so.

He told the BBC: “I always thought that the culture of No 10 at the time of recent events was unacceptable and indeed I think the Prime Minister himself belatedly recognised that but that culture came from the top and the only person who was responsible for it was the Prime Minister.

“That view was my view and I am only one person but what I think yesterday makes clear is that my view is shared by very large numbers of people in Yorkshire and in Devon, places so different that I think they can reasonably be regarded as representative of the country as a whole.

“So I think that yesterday the electorate delivered its verdict and as Oliver Dowden has said it can’t continue as  business as usual.”

01:19 PM

Lord Howard: PM no longer able to win elections

Lord Howard was asked if he believes Boris Johnson should remain in post as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.

He told the BBC: “I am afraid I have very reluctantly come to the conclusion that he shouldn’t.

“His biggest asset has always been his ability to win votes but I’m afraid yesterday’s votes make it clear that he no longer has that ability.

“The best person in the Conservative Party to judge the mood both of the party and the electorate is its chairman, I have enormous respect for Oliver Dowden and the implications of his resignation letter are I think very clear.

“Like him, I remain completely loyal to the Conservative Party and I think the party and even more importantly the country would now be better off under new leadership”

01:05 PM

Lord Howard urges PM to quit

Lord Howard has become the first former leader of the Conservative Party to publicly call for Boris Johnson to quit.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 World at One programme, the Tory heavyweight said: "I think the party and even more importantly the country would now be better off under new leadership.”

12:41 PM

'Too early' to make general election predictions

Sir Ed Davey said it was "too early" to make predictions about how many seats the Liberal Democrats could win at the next general election.

Speaking to reporters in Tiverton, Sir Ed said: "It is difficult to say as we are maybe two years from a general election.

“The fact we have won three parliamentary by-elections in just over 12 months suggests we are going to make advances and are going to get rid of a lot of Conservative MPs.

“It is too early to put a number on it but we certainly intend to get rid of a lot of Conservative MPs.”

12:37 PM

Lib Dem leader: No pact with Labour

Speaking to reporters at a post-election rally in Tiverton, Sir Ed Davey said there was no pact with the Labour Party to beat the Conservatives.

“I am being honest with people there is no pact, there is no deal, but the Liberal Democrats are fighting in areas we believe we can win,” he said.

Sir Ed Davey (L) and newly elected MP Richard Foord (C) walk through Tiverton along with Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain today - Finnbarr Webster /Getty Images Europe
Sir Ed Davey (L) and newly elected MP Richard Foord (C) walk through Tiverton along with Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain today - Finnbarr Webster /Getty Images Europe

“Here in Devon and the West Country we have had a legacy of lots of MPs and councillors over decades.

“It was very clear Tiverton and Honiton was a seat we could win if we campaigned hard.”

12:33 PM

PM warned tactical voting could cost Tories next election

Boris Johnson has been warned a “pincer movement” of tactical voting seen in the by-election losses could cost him the next general election.

Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s former chief of staff who now sits in the House of Lords, said the result in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election was “catastrophic" and the Tories "should be very worried about this potential pincer movement at the next election against them".

Gavin Barwell was Theresa May's No 10 chief of staff when she was PM  - Paul Faith/AFP
Gavin Barwell was Theresa May's No 10 chief of staff when she was PM - Paul Faith/AFP

“Facing Labour in the Red Wall and some urban marginals, and the Liberal Democrats resurgent across much of the South of England," he said.

“If you look at the tactical voting that we’ve seen in both by-elections, then I think if the Conservative Party doesn’t make a change, it is sleep-walking to defeat at the next election.”

You can read the full story here.

12:27 PM

1922 Committee treasurer hints confidence vote rules could be changed

The Treasurer of the 1922 Committee has suggested that the rules on holding a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson could be changed in the wake of two by-election defeats.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Tory MP for the Cotswolds, said this morning that the party would be forced to make “difficult decisions” after the results, which includes the biggest by-election defeat ever and the loss of a Red Wall seat first won by the Tories in 2019.

The current rules of the Committee state that a sitting party leader cannot face another confidence ballot in their leadership within twelve months of winning the first.

Mr Johnson saw off a challenge earlier this month, but 148 of his colleagues voted to remove him from office.

You can read the full story here.

11:42 AM

Former Tory leader Lord Howard 'urges PM to quit'

11:29 AM

Sir Ed Davey warns Tories: 'We will drive you out of power'

Speaking in Tiverton, Sir Ed Davey said that "the only people who can show Boris Johnson the door are his own party".

The Lib Dem leader said: "So let me take a moment to manage the expectations of Conservative MPs. If you fail to get rid of this law-breaking Prime Minister, if your party keeps putting up taxes and failing to help people, if you continue to allow Boris Johnson to drift along with no plan for our country - the Liberal Democrats are coming after you, seat-by-seat.

"The Liberal Democrats will assemble an army of activists. We will offer the change people want, we will offer the change our country needs and we will drive you Conservatives out of power."

Sir Ed Davey is pictured attending a victory rally in Tiverton this morning - Paul Childs/Reuters
Sir Ed Davey is pictured attending a victory rally in Tiverton this morning - Paul Childs/Reuters

11:24 AM

Lib Dems: PM has 'lost the confidence of the country'

Sir Ed Davey accused Boris Johnson of having shown "no leadership, whatsoever".

Speaking in Tiverton, the Lib Dem leader said: "Boris Johnson has deceived the British people and taken them for granted, for far too long. He has lost the confidence of his own party.

"He has lost the confidence of the people of Tiverton & Honiton - a seat his party has held for more than 100 years. And he has lost the confidence of the country.

"Boris Johnson has got to go."

11:18 AM

Sir Ed Davey unveils door at victory rally

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, unveiled a literal door with the words "it's time to show Boris the door" as he celebrated the party's victory in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

Sir Ed said: "Today the people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for the people of Britain, and their message is loud and clear: 'It’s time to show Boris Johnson the door'.

"Over the past year, the Liberal Democrats have been beating the Conservatives across their former heartlands. And Conservative excuses are starting to wear thin."

Sir Ed Davey said it is "time to show Boris the door" as he attended a victory rally in Tiverton and Honiton this morning - Paul Childs/Reuters
Sir Ed Davey said it is "time to show Boris the door" as he attended a victory rally in Tiverton and Honiton this morning - Paul Childs/Reuters

11:14 AM

Analysis: If PM is no longer an electoral asset, what is the point of him?

Gordon Rayner, The Telegraph's Associate Editor, has written a must-read analysis on what the by-election defeats could mean for Boris Johnson's fate. He wrote:

If a Cabinet coup fails to materialise, the next moment of danger for the Prime Minister will be the parliamentary standards committee’s investigation into whether he misled the House of Commons over partygate, an inquiry that is expected to take place in the autumn.

Once again, the Conservative Party finds itself facing a familiar question. Can its leader deliver victory in the next election? And if not, then who can?

You can read the full piece here.

11:04 AM

By-election defeats 'reignite Tory leadership campaigns'

Potential Tory leadership contenders are reigniting their campaign planning in the wake of the by-election defeats, rebel MPs have told The Telegraph.

One rebel said organising has now stepped up a gear. They said: “It’s really clear that people are organising and moving against him (Boris Johnson).

“It's a terrible night for the Tories, we have no choice but to deal with the problem. The problem is Boris Johnson."

Another Tory rebel said: “I know that some of the potential candidates are getting their deckchairs in a row, so to speak."

10:54 AM

Rishi Sunak: 'We all take responsibility for the results'

10:51 AM

PM calling Cabinet ministers to shore up support

Boris Johnson has been calling Cabinet ministers this morning to firm up support, The Telegraph understands.

No 10 is said to have been blindsided by Oliver Dowden's decision to resign as chairman of the Conservative Party.

But Downing Street is understood to be confident that there will not be any more Cabinet resignations today.

10:44 AM

Keir Starmer branded a ‘lemon’ in Wakefield

Sir Keir Starmer was mocked by a greengrocer who gave him a lemon as he walked past his shop because he thinks “he’s a bit of a joke”.

The Labour leader was visiting the small market town of Ossett celebrating Simon Lightwood’s victory in the Wakefield by-election when the trader initially offered him an apple.

Sir Keir Starmer is handed a lemon during a walk through the town of Ossett this morning - Charlotte Graham
Sir Keir Starmer is handed a lemon during a walk through the town of Ossett this morning - Charlotte Graham

A slightly bemused Sir Keir said “thank you” and went to take the fruit but when he did the man grinned and passed him a lemon instead.

You can read the full story here.

10:39 AM

No 'great enthusiasm' for Labour in Wakefield

Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, said that if the swing to Labour in Wakefield was replicated at a general election then the party would only just secure an overall majority.

He said: "The Wakefield result does not suggest any great enthusiasm for the Labour Party. The decline in the Conservative vote is more than twice as big as the rise in the Labour vote and it looks as though quite a lot of voters in Wakefield who are unhappy with the Conservatives took the opportunity to vote for an independent candidate who was a Tory councillor who resigned in March in part over partygate, he got seven per cent of the vote and a lot of that probably came from the Conservatives.

"That eight point increase in the Labour vote, which is all it is in Wakefield, well actually I can find you I think it is 10 by-elections in the 2010 to 2015 parliament where Ed Miliband managed an eight point increase or more in Labour's vote but he didn't go on to win 2015.

"There still seems to be a question about the extent to which voters, many of whom clearly are unhappy with the Conservatives, are necessarily as yet bought into Labour as an alternative to which they are going necessarily to be committed."

10:26 AM

How does Tiverton victory compare to past Lib Dem triumphs?

10:23 AM

Sir John Curtice: Tories hit by more tactical voting

Polling expert Sir John Curtice said the Tories had been hit by more tactical voting in the lost by-elections and that could have major ramifications for the Conservative Party if it was repeated at a general election.

Asked if the two defeats represented more than the standard mid-term blues, Sir John told the BBC: "I think the swings are undoubtedly bigger than you would get if there was a general election now but still they are not of an order that you necessarily assume is the run of the mill in by-elections.

"There is one other thing about these results together with other pieces of evidence out there that should worry the Conservatives and that is the apparent willingness of opposition voters, particularly now including Labour voters, to vote for whichever of the parties locally seems better able to defeat the Conservatives."

Sir John said increased tactical voting at a general election would mean the "losses that the party might suffer will consequentially be greater and that is exactly what happened to John Major in 1997".

10:16 AM

Tory by-election results 'worst since John Major's government'

Sir John Curtice said the Tories' performance in the five most recent by-elections is the worst for a governing party since Sir John Major was PM.

The polling expert told the BBC: "Put it together with the other three by-elections in the last year that the Conservatives have been trying to defend the seat... on average in those five seats the Conservative vote is down by 20 points.

"You have to go back to John Major's government of 1992 to 1997 and the fate that befell it in by-elections to find a government struggling as much in by-elections.

"That of course is not a very happy precedent because John Major in the end led his party to a serious defeat in 1997."

10:12 AM

Sir John Curtice highlights scale of swing against Tories

Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, said that if the swing to the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton and Honiton was replicated at a general election some 333 Tory MPs would lose their seats.

He told the BBC: “If you take the result in Tiverton and Honiton I think I calculated that there are 333 Conservative MPs who would lose their seats to the Liberal Democrats and perhaps slightly less nonsensically the swing to the Labour Party of just over 12 per cent would probably just be enough to generate a Labour overall majority.

“But at this point I think we do have to say yes, by-elections provide us with a valuable indicator of the standing of the parties, but they often provide us with an exaggerated indicator and certainly governments always do relatively badly at by-elections in the mid-term of a parliament.”

09:55 AM

Lord Frost: Results 'do not show strong protest votes'

09:51 AM

Priti Patel rejects claim of Tory voters switching to Lib Dems

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said Oliver Dowden’s resignation was a “loss” to the Government.

She said it is “important that we really reflect” on the by-election results, while also recognising the contests were fought against a “difficult and challenging backdrop”.

When it was put to her that recent results show Conservative voters are switching to the Liberal Democrats, she told Times Radio: “Well actually I wouldn’t say that at all, I really wouldn’t. I think that is quite a wide assumption.”

09:37 AM

Sir Robert Buckland: PM must 'look in the mirror and do better'

Sir Robert Buckland said he has told Boris Johnson personally that the Prime Minister needs to “look in the mirror and do better” as he told Sky News the Conservative Party is “about more than one man”.

The former justice secretary, who served in Mr Johnson’s Cabinet before the reshuffle last September, said he believed ousting the Prime Minister would not solve the party’s problems.

Boris Johnson shakes hands with the Prince of Wales in Kigali, Rwanda, this morning - Chris Jackson/PA
Boris Johnson shakes hands with the Prince of Wales in Kigali, Rwanda, this morning - Chris Jackson/PA

He said: “I don’t think that throwing over the captain now would be the right response, that would be, once again, Conservative MPs turning in on themselves and worrying about themselves rather than listening to constituents and fellow residents, as I do here in Swindon.

“This is a much bigger story than the story of one man and his career. He needs to, as I’ve said to him myself, look in the mirror and make sure that he does better and I think therefore the next couple of years are the time for him to prove to all of us that that can be done and for the Conservative Party to demonstrate that it is still capable of governing this country as it has done, I believe, so well in the past."

09:26 AM

PM will not return to UK early

Boris Johnson will not be returning early from his trip abroad despite the domestic crisis he is now facing.

A Tory source said: “He’s not going to be leaving, this is too important, he’s going onto the G7 on the basis that the biggest challenge is to get the UK and families through extremely tough economic times.

Prince Charles (L), Prince of Wales, arrives as secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepare to greet him during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kigali Convention Centre  - Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe
Prince Charles (L), Prince of Wales, arrives as secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepare to greet him during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kigali Convention Centre - Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe

“To not be at the G7 would be an abdication of responsibility for any prime minister.”

Boris Johnson is currently in Kigali for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) and is flying straight from Rwanda to the G7 summit in Germany followed by a Nato summit in Madrid.

09:23 AM

PM was swimming before Oliver Dowden call

Boris Johnson spoke to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris by phone after Oliver Dowden’s resignation, a Tory party source said.

The source said Mr Johnson was swimming in his hotel pool by 6am Kigali-time and then received the warning call from Mr Dowden before his 7am meeting.

Mr Johnson was said to be surprised by the resignation and believes there is “no rush” in replacing him as party co-chairman.

09:22 AM

'Of course you lose elections'

Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, was told that his Esher and Walton seat in Surrey could be at risk at a general election if the by-election results are anything to go by.

Mr Raab has a majority of just under 3,000 votes, with the Liberal Democrats finishing in second place in 2019.

He told the BBC: “Look, if we don’t deliver as a Government, if we don’t give the voters that positive agenda, of course you lose elections. That goes without saying. That is written in.”

09:17 AM

'We have got to be more disciplined'

The Government needs to be "more disciplined and focused", Dominic Raab has said.

The Deputy Prime Minister was asked what counsel he will give to Boris Johnson in the wake of the by-election defeats.

He said: “I am not going to give you the private counsel I give the Prime Minister but I can tell you the thrust of it because it is straightforward.

“We have got to cut out the distractions, we have got to be more disciplined and focused.”

09:04 AM

Dominic Raab rejects claim PM is a 'distraction'

It was put to Dominic Raab that Boris Johnson is the main distraction for the Government.

The Deputy Prime Minister told the BBC: “No, I don’t agree because actually I think he has got the massive big calls right when Labour haven’t and when the Lib Dems have sat on the fence.”

09:01 AM

'We need to stop the distractions which blow us off course'

Dominic Raab was told that people knew what Margaret Thatcher stood for on the economy but they do not know what Boris Johnson stands for.

The Justice Secretary told the BBC: “I disagree. Of course you will seek to unpick the 10 second answer I give you but the answer is maintain this incredible record of low unemployment but make sure that people have got the well paid jobs and that we are driving up the innovation and the productivity which boost jobs.

“But we know that the immediate thing in front of everyone is the cost of living challenge and then you have got the levelling up agenda which is making sure that we are not solely reliant or exclusively or predominantly reliant just on the London south east economic motor.”

He added: “That is the critical plan. We have got the mechanisms, the means, the policies, the legislation to deliver it. We need to stop the distractions which blow us off course. We have got two years to do that and that is the game plan.”

08:56 AM

Dominic Raab: 'Of course we are going to listen'

Dominic Raab said ministers will "of course" listen to Tory MPs who want to see a change in approach from the Government.

The Deputy Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “Of course we are going to listen but what I am telling you, the central message is, and I think particularly from Tiverton where our own supporters stayed home and that is the big thing that I think I would extrapolate, we have got to be talking to the public, giving and delivering the public what we said we would do.

“We have got a great plan for the reforms in schools, the NHS, the criminal justice, the crime fighting plan.

"We have got to be relentlessly focused on it and the change… is not allowing anything to get in the way of that.”

08:40 AM

Sir Keir Starmer claims Tories are 'imploding'

Sir Keir Starmer has claimed the Conservative Party is "imploding" as he spoke to the media following Labour's victory in Wakefield.

He said: "The Tory party is absolutely imploding, they know they are out of ideas and they are out of touch and if they had any decency they would get out of the way for the next Labour government.

Sir Keir Starmer meets with new Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood in Ossett Market  - Danny Lawson/PA 
Sir Keir Starmer meets with new Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood in Ossett Market - Danny Lawson/PA

"What happened here in Wakefield is people exercising their judgement on this Conservative Government and voting no confidence.

"For me and the Labour Party this is very important because of two years we have been turning our party around and we were able to show the voters in Wakefield that we are a confident party, we are a united party and we are laser-like focused in the issues that affect working people in Wakefield and that is why they put their faith in Simon, that's why they put their faith in the Labour Party."

08:36 AM

Sir Keir Starmer: Tories are 'out of ideas'

Sir Keir Starmer met Labour campaigners in Wakefield this morning alongside newly-elected MP Simon Lightwood.

He told supporters: “What a judgment this is on the Tories and Boris Johnson – out of touch, out of ideas, and if they had any decency they would get out the way for the sake of the country.

“When we do form that next Labour government, and we’re going to do it, Wakefield will go down as the birthplace of that.”

08:33 AM

PM writes to Oliver Dowden

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Oliver Dowden he “completely” understands his disappointment with the by-election results.

Writing to Mr Dowden following his resignation as Tory Party chairman, Mr Johnson said: “Thank you for your letter and I am sad to see you leave Government.

“As Minister for the Cabinet Office, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, it has been a pleasure to work alongside you for the last three years.

“In each of those roles you have given your best and focused on delivering for the British people.

“Whilst I completely understand your disappointment with the by-election results, this Government was elected with a historic mandate just over two years ago to unite and level up. I look forward to continuing to work together on that.”

08:31 AM

Priti Patel: Government is 'cracking on with the task'

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Prime Minister told her the Government is “cracking on with task” after the double by-election defeats.

Asked what Boris Johnson said to her following the results, she told LBC: “The fact of the matter is that we’re cracking on with the task.”

Pressed on what the PM said, she said: “Yes, exactly that, absolutely, that we are carrying on, working to grow our economy and address the cost of living… and providing the leadership that we need in challenging times.

“We do that collectively, we really do as one Government working together.”

08:29 AM

Dominic Raab blames 'distractions'

Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, was asked repeatedly during an interview with the BBC this morning if anything will now change after the Tories' two by-election defeats.

He said: "I think we have had distractions because of partygate, because of too much Westminster internal focus... but if I look at what we are doing, the Chancellor tackling the cost of living challenges, a £37 billion package of support, the Transport Secretary taking measures this week to help deal with the RMT strikes... I published a Bill of Rights."

Mr Raab said that "the choice at the general election is very different to the one at by-elections". Asked again if anything will change in the Government's approach, he said: "The problem has been we have got too many other distractions, they are well rehearsed, and what we need to have is two years when we are relentlessly focused on the cost of living, the economy, the reforms we are making..."

Asked again if changes will be made, he said: "Yes, we are going to be relentlessly focused on delivery and not allow the distractions of recent times to take our eye off the ball."

08:20 AM

Pictured: Sir Keir Starmer addresses the media in Wakefield

Sir Keir Starmer talks to the media in Wakefield this morning - Phil Noble /Reuters
Sir Keir Starmer talks to the media in Wakefield this morning - Phil Noble /Reuters

08:19 AM

Dominic Raab blames defeats on 'perfect storm'

Dominic Raab said Oliver Dowden "clearly felt it was the right thing to resign" and his letter was "very straight forward".

The Deputy Prime Minister blamed the two by-election defeats on a "perfect storm" of problems for the Tories.

Mr Raab told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "The by-elections, both of them, were the result of, if you like, the perfect storm of very difficult local scenarios... plus the national headwinds first of all inevitably for a mid-term Government but also, frankly, the distractions that we have had.

"We need to be, I think the Prime Minister put it well, we need to listen very carefully, we need to take that feedback."

08:12 AM

Confirmed: Oliver Dowden not on the media round

Oliver Dowden had been scheduled for the morning media round for the Tories but his resignation as chairman of the Conservative Party means he is no longer appearing.

Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, has been given the job of responding to the two by-election defeats.

Mr Raab is about to speak to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

08:06 AM

Sir Roger Gale: PM has trashed Tories' reputation

Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale has accused Boris Johnson of having “trashed” the reputation of the Conservative Party.

He said the PM was choosing to “hang onto the door handle at No 10” but “it can’t go on forever and it certainly won’t go on until the next general election”.

Asked if he saw Oliver Dowden’s resignation as a trigger for more expressions of discontent from the Cabinet, he told BBC Breakfast: “It is possible that that may happen but it is up to my colleagues in the Cabinet to decide whether they can go on supporting a Prime Minister who, frankly, has trashed the reputation of the Conservative Party, my party, for honesty, for decency, for integrity and for compassion.”

07:56 AM

Boris Johnson: Governments lose mid-term by-elections

Boris Johnson has sought to deflect from the by-election defeats being about his leadership.

He told broadcasters in Rwanda: “That may be your view. I think that what governments also have to recognise is that, I don’t want to minimise the importance of what voters are saying, but it is also true that in mid-term, government, post-war, lose by-elections.

“I think if you look back to last May the truly astonishing thing was we managed to win Hartlepool in very different circumstances.

Boris Johnson speaks to the media in Rwanda today - Sky News
Boris Johnson speaks to the media in Rwanda today - Sky News

“What we need to do now is reflect on where voters are, and what they are basically feeling is that we came through Covid well and we took a lot of the right decisions there. But we are facing pressures on the costs of living.

“We are seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs, that is hitting people. We have to recognise that there is more that we have got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going, addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”

07:50 AM

'Wakefield puts us firmly on the path to winning the next general election'

Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, said the result in Wakefield has put Labour “firmly on the path to winning the next general election".

She told BBC Breakfast the result was a “massive rejection” of Boris Johnson and the “lack of agenda of his Tory government”.

She said: "For the first time that we’ve been in opposition, we have a leader that people in places like Wakefield can look to and think ‘that’s the kind of person I want to lead this country, that I can trust him as prime minister, I can trust him running the economy’. As I say, I think Wakefield puts us firmly on the path to winning the next general election.”

07:48 AM

Labour: Wakefield victory 'beyond our wildest dreams'

The shadow transport secretary has said Labour was “thoroughly delighted” to have defeated the Tories in Wakefield.

Louise Haigh told BBC Breakfast: “We were obviously hoping for victory last night in Wakefield, but the result went beyond our wildest dreams.

“It was a higher turnout than we expected, a much bigger swing, and a much bigger vote share as well, which went far beyond any that we’ve achieved for several general elections in a row now."

07:46 AM

Tiverton result 'catastrophic' for Tories

Lord Barwell said Cabinet ministers have got to ask themselves what it does to their own reputations if they continue to stand by Boris Johnson.

“The evidence is mounting up that he has lost the support of the public that he once had, that it looks extraordinarily unlikely that he’s going to be able to win that back,” the Tory peer said.

“So, if they allow him to carry on, then they’re going to allow him to lead the Conservative Party to a significant defeat at the next election.”

Lord Barwell said the Tiverton and Honiton result was “catastrophic” for the Tories.

07:45 AM

Tories 'sleepwalking to general election defeat'

Tory peer Lord Barwell, who was Theresa May’s chief of staff in No 10, said if the Conservative Party carries on as it is, it is “sleepwalking to a defeat at the next election”.

He told Sky News he was “very pleased” someone senior in the party seemed to have “finally” recognised this and done something about it, in reference to Oliver Dowden resigning as Tory chairman.

He said Boris Johnson’s authority is “very significantly diminished” and “draining away”.

07:44 AM

Senior Tory MP: We must think 'very carefully about the future'

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a senior Tory MP and the treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said he and his colleagues will need to "think very carefully about the future and how we are going to remedy this situation so that we do stand the best possible chance of bringing the situation back and winning the next election”.

He would not be drawn on whether Tory leadership rules could be changed to allow for a new confidence vote to take place.

He said he expects the PM to set out his case for staying in post in the coming days and MPs will then "have to make a judgement as to whether we think that that is a satisfactory explanation or whether we should actually take steps to have a new prime minister".

07:38 AM

'Everybody else seems to have to take responsibility#

Labour's shadow transport secretary has said it is “right” that Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden has resigned, but said she hoped Boris Johnson would “take his fair share of responsibility”.

Louise Haigh told BBC Breakfast: “I think it’s right, but I think, once again, everybody else seems to have to take responsibility and resign other than the main man, and I would have hoped that Boris Johnson would take his fair share of responsibility of this devastating blow of these two by-election losses.

“But, knowing the measure of the man as I do, I very much doubt he will.”

07:37 AM

Tory MP: Oliver Dowden 'not to blame' for results

07:30 AM

PM: 'We’ve had some tough by-election results'

Boris Johnson said the Tories had suffered some "tough by-election results" and he believed the cost-of-living crisis is the "number one issue" for "most people".

Speaking to broadcasters in Kigali, Rwanda, the Prime Minister said: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results, they’ve been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we’ve got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment.

“I think, as a Government, I’ve got to listen to what people are saying, in particular to the difficulties people are facing over the cost of living, which, I think, for most people is the number one issue.

“We’re now facing pressures on the cost of living, we’re seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs – that’s hitting people.

“We’ve got to recognise there is more we’ve got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going, addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch.”

07:19 AM

Boris Johnson vows to 'keep going'

Boris Johnson has said he will “listen” to voters but will “keep going” after the Tories suffered a double by-election defeat.

The Prime Minister is currently in Rwanda as he attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

07:18 AM

Senior Tory MP: 'Very serious and large defeats'

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a senior Tory MP who has a 20,000 vote majority in his seat of The Cotswolds, said if a by-election was held in his constituency tomorrow "it would be difficult to hold".

He told the BBC: “I think factually if I were to run under a bus today it would be difficult to hold my seat, there is no doubt about that.”

He added: “We have seen a very serious and large defeat in two seats in two completely areas of the country.”

07:10 AM

The scale of the historic result in Tiverton and Honiton

06:55 AM

Dowden letter is 'excoriating'

Asked if the resignation of Oliver Dowden could change some minds in the Cabinet and prompt resignations, the senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said: “That is a matter for my colleagues in the Cabinet and they will have to decide individually and collectively whether they collectively perhaps say to the Prime Minister ‘you can’t go on’ or whether they try and stagger on.

"I think Oliver Dowden is a decent and honourable man, he has done the right thing, his letter is excoriating. He has made his position absolutely plain, he can no longer defend the indefensible and the Prime Minister is indefensible.”

06:51 AM

Senior Tory MP: PM should 'reconsider his position'

Sir Roger Gale, a senior Tory MP, said Boris Johnson should "reconsider his position" in the wake of the by-election defeats.

Mr Johnson won a vote of confidence on his Tory leadership at the start of this month and under current party rules he cannot face another vote for 12 months.

Sir Roger was asked if Tory MPs had triggered the vote too soon and he told the BBC: “I think the media were under the impression that this was an orchestrated vote. It was not. I put my letter in 18 months ago, indicating that I felt we should change the leader of the Conservative Party and I stand by that.

“The timing from the point of view of defeating the Prime Minister, if that is the way you want to put it, was not ideal.

“But that is the way that the letters stacked up in Sir Graham Brady’s office. But the fact of the matter is that 41 per cent of the Conservative parliamentary party and over 70 per cent of the backbench voted no confidence in the Prime Minister and an honourable prime minister, even at this stage, would now reconsider his position. I fear he won’t do it, but he should.”

06:46 AM

Voters have sent 'clear message of no confidence' in PM

Sir Roger Gale, a senior Tory MP who has repeatedly called for Boris Johnson to resign, said this morning that voters in Tiverton and Honiton had sent a "very clear message of no confidence" in the PM.

Asked where the by-election results leave the Conservative Party, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “It leaves the party in a not very happy position… the fact of the matter is the people of the West Country have sent a very clear message of no confidence in the Prime Minister and we have to recognise that.”

06:36 AM

'That's when a coup can happen'

Newly-elected Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord has warned Boris Johnson that “coups can happen” when leaders head overseas during rocky patches at home.

The Prime Minister is currently in Rwanda, and is expected to be out of the country for several days.

Speaking just after his win on Friday morning, Mr Foord was asked if the Prime Minister had been “missing in action” from the campaign trail.

“The Prime Minister is obviously free to go and speak to counterparts on the world stage but actually he should be mindful of the fact that often when presidents and leaders are overseas, that’s when a coup can happen,” Mr Foord said.

06:35 AM

New Lib Dem MP hails 'absolutely seismic' result

Richard Foord, the newly-elected Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, described his victory as “absolutely staggering”.

He said: “This result is absolutely staggering, we weren’t expecting a win, let alone a win of this scale.”

Mr Foord added: “We have been noticing that momentum has been shifting from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats over the course of this campaign and particularly in recent days because of the very positive agenda we were setting out.

“But this is absolutely seismic and we have overturned the biggest majority in parliamentary by-election history and it really sent a very clear message to this Government.”

06:32 AM

Why Tiverton defeat will set Tory alarm bells ringing

The Tories were defending a majority of 24,239 in Tiverton and Honiton, making the seat in rural Devon one of the Conservative Party's strongholds.

In fact, there are only 40 Tory seats which have a bigger majority than the one the Conservative Party had in Tiverton.

The Lib Dems won the seat with a majority of more than 6,000 - a truly massive swing. It is the biggest majority ever overturned in a by-election in terms of raw vote numbers.

Tory MPs will be fearful that if the Lib Dems can win in Tiverton they could well win in much tighter areas.

06:12 AM

Who will do the morning media round for the Tories?

Oliver Dowden was scheduled to be doing the morning media round for the Tories to answer questions on the by-election results.

Given that he has just quit as chairman of the Conservative Party it is unclear whether he will still be doing interviews.

06:07 AM

Labour 'rebuilding the Red Wall'

New Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood has told reporters that Labour is “rebuilding the Red Wall” and that the biggest issue on the doorstep throughout the campaign had been the cost-of-living crisis.

Asked what the victory would mean for Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, he said: “I think it speaks volumes. We are rebuilding the Red Wall and this is the birthplace of the next Labour government.”

Mr Lightwood added: “We’re rebuilding the trust of the electorate and people are ready for a fresh start. They’re sick of all the lies and deceit of Boris Johnson and we offer that alternative vision.”

Asked whether the success would translate into other Red Wall seats across the north of England, he said: “I think we can be certain of that.”

06:05 AM

Oliver Dowden's letter: The key points

Oliver Dowden's letter of resignation sets out a number of concerns and calls for action. These are the key points:

Direction of travel

Mr Dowden makes clear that the Tories have had a rough run at elections recently and the party needs to change course.

He said: "Yesterday's Parliamentary by-elections are the latest in a run of over very poor results for our party. Our supporters feel 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."

Oliver Dowden's letter of resignation 
Oliver Dowden's letter of resignation

Activists deserve better

Mr Dowden suggested in his letter that the Tory grassroots is at risk of becoming disillusioned and the party's performance must improve.

He said: "It has been an honour to serve in your Cabinets as Party Chairman, Culture Secretary and Minister for the Cabinet Office. In particular, I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our excellent Conservative volunteers and staffers who work so tirelessly for our cause. They are the backbone of our great party and deserve better than this."

'Deeply personal decision'

Mr Dowden's resignation will inevitably spark speculation on whether other senior Tory figures could now quit. Mr Dowden said he had made his decision on his own.

He said: "Finally, I want to emphasise that this is a deeply personal decision that I have taken alone. I will, as always, remain loyal to the Conservative Party."

05:39 AM

Oliver Dowden resigns as chairman of the Conservative Party

05:30 AM

Davey: Lib Dems have made political history

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said: “The Liberal Democrats have made political history with this stunning win. It is the biggest by-election victory our country has ever seen.

“This should be a wake-up call for all those Conservative MPs propping up Boris Johnson. They cannot afford to ignore this result.

“The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for the country. The public is sick of Boris Johnson’s lies and law-breaking and it’s time for Conservative MPs to finally do the right thing and sack him.”

Stacks of votes in Tiverton - REUTERS
Stacks of votes in Tiverton - REUTERS

05:14 AM

Beaten Tory MP hid from press and tripped over on stage

Beaten Tory candidate Helen Hurford, who had earlier shut herself away from the media in a room for 25 minutes, did not make a speech after the results were declared, Nick Gutteridge writes from Crediton in Devon.

In a symbolic moment that brought her stuttering campaign to an end she tripped whilst walking up to the stage to hear her fate, letting out a gasp of surprise.

As her tally was announced, immediately after that of winning candidate Richard Foord, there was an awkward silence followed by muted applause.

She maintained a fixed grin as the votes were read out and immediately dashed for the exit once the ceremony was over, not answering any questions on the way.

Glum Tory staffers were equally tight-lipped and filed past the media scrum in silence as volleys were fired at them about the Prime Minister's role in the result.

Helen Hurford heads for the exit after her defeat in Tiverton - GETTY IMAGES
Helen Hurford heads for the exit after her defeat in Tiverton - GETTY IMAGES

04:47 AM

Labour MP: Boris's contempt for Britain is no longer tolerated

Giving his victory speech in Wakefield, Simon Lightwood said: "Boris Johnson, your contempt for this country is no longer tolerated, your government has no ideas, no plan to address the big issues facing our country."

He added: "I think people are absolutely tired of the lies and deceit we've seen from the prime minister and they're demanding change and tonight is the demonstration of that."

"This is a tremendous victory for the Labour Party, we're re-building that Red Wall under the leadership of Keir Starmer.

"We're listening to the people of the country and putting forward a vision for the future."

The Conservative candidate, Nadeem Ahmed, left the building without giving any interviews.

Simon Lightwood - REUTERS
Simon Lightwood - REUTERS

04:35 AM

This will send shockwave through British politics, says new Lib Dem MP

In his victory speech Richard Foord said the result would “send a shockwave through British politics”.

To loud cheers he said: “Tonight, the people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken for Britain. They’ve sent a loud and clear message: It’s time for Boris Johnson to go. And go now.

“Every day Boris Johnson clings to office, he brings further shame, chaos and neglect. Communities like ours are on their knees.

“I also have a simple message for those Conservative MPs propping up this failing Prime Minister: The Liberal Democrats are coming.  “If you don’t take action to restore decency, respect and British values to Downing Street, you too will face election defeats like the one we have seen here tonight.

“It is time to do what’s right for our country. You know in your heart that your leader is not the person to lead this great nation into the future.”

Mr Foord accused Tory MPs of "propping up a failing Prime Minister" - REUTERS
Mr Foord accused Tory MPs of "propping up a failing Prime Minister" - REUTERS

04:31 AM

Wakefield results: Tory vote collapses

Results from the Wakefield by-election show a 17pc drop in votes for the Conservatives.

Simon Lightwood (Lab) 13,166 (47.94%, +8.13%)

Nadeem Ahmed (C) 8,241 (30.00%, -17.26%)

Akef Akbar (Ind) 2,090 (7.61%, +6.60%)

David Herdson (Yorkshire) 1,182 (4.30%, +2.38%)

Ashley Routh (Green) 587 (2.14%)

04:28 AM

Starmer: Tories have run out of ideas

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the victory in Wakefield shows his party is on the side of working people.

Sir Keir said: "Wakefield has shown the country has lost confidence in the Tories.

"This result is a clear judgement on a Conservative Party that has run out of energy and ideas. Britain deserves better. Wakefield has voted Labour because we have solutions for the challenges facing the British people.

"The Labour Party is back on the side of working people, winning seats where we lost before, and ready for government."

04:27 AM

Massive 38pc increase for Lib Dems in Tiverton

Here are selected results from the Lib Dems' sensational win in Tiverton.

Richard Foord (LD) 22,537 (52.91%, +38.14%)

Helen Hurford (C) 16,393 (38.49%, -21.72%)

Liz Pole (Lab) 1,562 (3.67%, -15.88%)

Gill Westcott (Green) 1,064 (2.50%, -1.34%)

04:10 AM

Tories humiliated in Tiverton

The Lib Dems have taken Tiverton and Honiton from the Tories, overturning a majority of more than 24,000 in an historic defeat for the Prime Minister.

04:03 AM

Tiverton results imminent

Stand by! Tiverton results are being read out now.

04:01 AM

Tories insist there is still love for Boris

Andrea Jenkyns, the Tory MP for Morley and Outwood told the Telegraph that despite the defeat in Wakefield: "On the doorstep in certain areas we went there is a great love for Boris. I really did find that in the working class areas."

A Labour source on the ground said: “Lifelong Tory voters and those we lost in 2019 are voting Labour showing the progress we have made."

03:48 AM

Tiverton Tory candidate 'locks herself in room'

Helen Hurford, the Tory candidate for Tiverton and Honiton, has locked herself in the room previously reserved for media interviews at the constituency's election count in a sports centre in Crediton, the Press Association has reported.

Ms Hurford is reportedly refusing to speak to any press.

At around 3.30am Ms Hurford arrived at the election count where she is projected to lose the previously safe Conservative seat.

03:41 AM

Lib Dems may have won Tiverton by more than 1,000 votes

Lib Dem sources said their party has won the by-election by at least 1,000 votes. The official result is expected to be announced shortly before 4am.

“If I’d said six months ago that we were going to win this by-election everyone would have laughed, and rightly so”, one stunned insider said.

Lib Dem MP Christine Jardin, who is at the count in Crediton, said her party will now be targeting the Prime Minister and deputy PM’s seats at the next election.

She told the Telegraph: “This is huge. This is the biggest majority overturned since 1935 in a by-election and that should send a message to the government.

“If I were a Conservative MP at the moment, I am astonished that they haven’t acted already, that they don’t see the writing on the wall.

“If they can lose seats which they regard as safe as this one, then both the Prime Minister and Dominic Raab, their majorities are far less than you’ve got here. They should be thinking about that.”

Counting is nearly complete in the Tiverton seat - GETTY IMAGES
Counting is nearly complete in the Tiverton seat - GETTY IMAGES

03:33 AM

Results imminent in Wakefield

The candidates are about to take the stage in Wakefield where results are due at any moment.

03:16 AM

Voters are 'sick' of Johnson

Labour MP Darren Jones said likely wins for his party in Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton and Honiton was a sign that voters were "sick" of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.

Speaking from the election count in Devon, Mr Jones said: "There is a similar story between Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield.

"Voters in the rural south west and in the north of England are sick of Boris Johnson and the Tories.

"In both by-elections the voters are sending a message to the Conservatives that enough is enough."

02:55 AM

Lib Dems declare victory in Tiverton

The Liberal Democrats claimed they had secured a "clear win" in Tiverton and Honiton, a seat where the Tories had a majority of more than 24,000 in 2019.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "This is looking like a clear win. The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken up for the country.

"This is an historic victory for the Liberal Democrats and a devastating blow for those Conservative MPs who continue to prop up Boris Johnson."

02:43 AM

Hero's welcome for Wakefield Labour candidate

Simon Lightwood has arrived at the count in Wakefield to cheers and applause from his supporters.

He walked, grinning, into the hall past a small group of Tory supporters sat silent and subdued in the corner.

Labour sources said they were now "confident" that the result would be in their favour.

Simon Lightwood arrives at the count with Louise Haigh, right, the shadow transport secretary - REUTERS
Simon Lightwood arrives at the count with Louise Haigh, right, the shadow transport secretary - REUTERS

02:37 AM

Tory MP being 'pragmatic' in Wakefield

Andrea Jenkyns, the Tory MP for Morley and Outwood told the Telegraph she was being “pragmatic” about the party’s chances of victory in Wakefield.

Speaking about the Tiverton and Honiton vote, she added: “I hope we keep that one. It would be good to keep one at least.”

02:32 AM

Ed Davey confident of a win

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey has expressed his confidence in a victory in Tiverton and Honiton this morning.

In a tweet referring to the photo of him taking a hammer to the Tories 'blue wall' after his party won the Chesham by-election last year, Mr Davey said:

Here's Mr Davey swinging his hammer last summer:

02:11 AM

Homemade banner tells PM the game is up

Robin Corden, 42, an account manager for a flooring company, had brought a banner to the Tiverton and Honiton by-election count reading: "The party's over prime minister."

He told the Press Association: "I think the greased piglet that is our Prime Minister was very happy to have the vote of confidence before the two by-elections here and in Wakefield.

"Many more backbench MPs would have voted no confidence if they had witnessed the election annihilation that has taken place today."

Mr Corden added: "Boris Johnson grew up not far from here in Winsford (Somerset), we in the Exe Valley, which has such beautiful orchards, feel embarrassed to have produced such a rotten apple."

When asked if he believed the Tories really had suffered "annihilation", Mr Corden replied: "I hope so, I am a Green and I've voted tactically."

He continued: "I decided that I could not live with myself if I woke up tomorrow morning and the Tories had won by a really narrow margin, so I forsook my political loyalties to send a message to the Conservatives that their days are numbered."

Mr Corden's banner - PA
Mr Corden's banner - PA
Mr Corden's banner - GETTY IMAGES
Mr Corden's banner - GETTY IMAGES

01:56 AM

Tiverton turnout also down since 2019

Turnout for the by-election in Tiverton and Honiton was 52 per cent, down from just under 72 per cent in the 2019 general election.

It comes after turnout also fell in Wakefield in today's other by-election.

Here's how the people of Tiverton and Honiton voted in 2019:

01:52 AM

Voters have their say in 'porn MP' constituency

The Conservatives have since 1997 held a sizeable majority in the heartland seat of Tiverton and Honiton but face stiff competition from the Lib Dems.

The by-election was triggered following the high-profile departure of Neil Parish, the rural Devon constituency's previous Tory MP.

Mr Parish, who became a well-liked local MP after his election in 2010, resigned on April 30 after admitting he watched pornography twice in the House of Commons.

After telling The Telegraph's Chopper's Politics podcast last month that he might run as an independent candidate, he since decided against standing.

Neil Parish resigned in April - GEOFF PUGH 
Neil Parish resigned in April - GEOFF PUGH

01:42 AM

Why is there a by-election in Wakefield?

Voters in Wakefield went to the polls on Thursday after the departure of the city's previous Conservative MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, Dominic Penna writes.

In April, Khan - the MP for Wakefield from December 2019 until last month - was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

On May 3, he officially quit his seat after his conviction. He was also expelled by the Conservative Party and has been jailed for 18 months.

A by-election takes place in a constituency when an MP's seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant between general elections.

This can take place when someone resigns, dies, is declared bankrupt, moves to the House of Lords, or is convicted of a serious criminal offence.

Imran Ahmad Khan was in May jailed for 18 months - PA
Imran Ahmad Khan was in May jailed for 18 months - PA

01:13 AM

Turnout plummets in Wakefield

The turnout in Wakefield is only 39 per cent, down from 64.2 per cent in the 2019 general election.

"It's more than we were hoping for," Labour's shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh told Sky News.

Labour have not returned a majority of over 2,500 since they last won a general election in 2005.

01:03 AM

People of Devon have been taken for granted, say Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: "Richard Foord ran an energetic and inspiring campaign against a Conservative party which has taken people in Devon for granted.

"He has proudly stood up for his local community and demanded better for it.

"Never in the history of British politics has a majority this big been overturned in a by-election. We've said throughout this campaign this is a huge mountain to climb.

"However, if the Conservative Party lose significant numbers of votes tonight in one of their safest seats in the country, there will be countless Conservative MPs looking over their shoulders nervously tomorrow.

"Many parts of the country now face a clear choice at the next election. It is either four more years of Boris Johnson, or a strong local champion in a Liberal Democrat MP."

Victory for the Lib Dems' Richard Foord would be a huge upset - GETTY IMAGES
Victory for the Lib Dems' Richard Foord would be a huge upset - GETTY IMAGES

12:57 AM

Labour: Wakefield win is 'uphill task'

Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour's national campaign coordinator, said: "Labour has run positive campaigns with fantastic candidates in both by-elections, but we know that taking the seats requires many Tory voters to switch to Labour, which is harder in by-elections where low turnout is commonplace.

"Wakefield has been a marginal constituency since Labour last won a general election, and the Conservatives hold the seat with the biggest majority since 2010, making this an uphill task.

"While we await the results in both elections - the message we have heard is clear: many are coming back to Labour under Keir Starmer's leadership."

12:46 AM

What you need to know

  • Boris Johnson says he is "full of optimism" as he awaits the results of by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton

  • Labour is challenging in the Red Wall seat in Yorkshire and could pinch back the seat they lost to the Tories at the last election

  • The Lib Dems are seeking a shock win in Tiverton where they would have to overturn a massive conservative majority

  • Results are due this morning after about 2am

  • A senior Tory source has acknowledged the situation was looking "extremely difficult" in the Devon seat, while in Wakefield a Labour campaign source said Sir Keir Starmer's party would "just" win

  • In Wakefield, ex-Conservative 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

  • In Devon's Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish, the Tory MP since 2010, resigned after admitting he had watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.