Oliver Dowden was supposed to be in the studios of British news channels on Friday morning to discuss the results of Thursday’s by-election. Doden Ho party head Of the Conservative Party, he is the co-chair alongside Boris Johnson and is also a minister without portfolio. He’s done it many times before: sitting in TV studios defending Johnson, his loyalty to his boss seems to have no limits at all. But this was, as it turned out, a miscalculation. Oliver Dowden didn’t come to the TV studios on Friday, but he quit. He sent his letter, including his resignation letter, at 5:35 a.m. local time.
The resignation of a senior member of the government at 5:30 in the morning is always bad news for the government. In Dowden’s case, it was also a surprise, and Boris Johnson is also said to have been surprised by the news. Literally: Johnson is currently in Rwanda for a Commonwealth meeting, and Dowden called Johnson there before sending his message. Just at that moment, the press delegation reported, Johnson was swimming in the hotel pool in Kigali.
Dowden wrote in his book Message to the Prime Minister, ‘business as usual’ no longer exists, ‘someone has to take responsibility’. The letter is succinct and reads as if Dowden wanted, as a courtesy, to distance himself from the man who had defended him for so long. He concludes by saying that he, Dowden, will always remain loyal to the party. Not a word from Johnson.
Johnson must explain to his party how he intends to move forward with these results
The impetus for Dowden’s resignation was a night when there would be much to talk about in political London. Two by-elections were held in the UK on Thursday, in Wakefield, Tiverton County and Honiton; Tory MPs from both categories were recently forced to resign due to various scandals. Both are very distinct places for the country’s geopolitics: Wakefield is in the Midlands of England, and the constituency is one of the constituencies the Conservatives won from Labor in 2019. Tiverton & Honiton is in the southwest, where the Conservatives have won every election since 1924. , including in 2019 by an overwhelming majority of about 25,000 votes.
The night vote count now showed not only the recovery of Labour’s Wakefield but also the victory of the Liberal Democrats in the deeply conservative Tiverton in the biggest turnaround in Tory history that was too much for Dowden.
Not just for him, many of Johnson’s critics in his party spoke out on Friday again. The prime minister only recently narrowly won a vote of no-confidence, but according to party laws, no further votes should be held for a year. However, Jeffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Treasurer of the powerful 1922 Conservative Party Committee, said on BBC Radio that Johnson will certainly explain to both Cabinet and MPs in the next few days how he intends to move forward. “We will then have to assess whether this interpretation is satisfactory or whether we should take steps to replace the prime minister,” he added. There is no holy rule, Johnson of all people should know this.
Polls show that even Conservative voters are unhappy
Johnson’s supporters, in turn, stressed what they said after the recent local and other by-elections lost: Defeats in elections in the middle of a term are perfectly normal. However, this is only half the truth, on the one hand, there are enough examples of British governments losing less conspicuously and more frequently in by-elections than Johnson’s Conservatives now. Since 2019, the Conservatives have won only three out of ten by-elections. In two of these cases, the incumbent tragically died, reverently spoiling local election campaigns.
On the other hand, polls show that even Tory voters are unhappy with the way they are handling current problems, such as the rising cost of living or rail strikes. They are affecting the entire country this week, but instead of negotiating solutions with unions, conservatives are sending emails to their voters blaming the opposition for the strikes. “Stop Strikes Workers” was, in all seriousness, the subject of an email sent Thursday by Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps.
Even the local Conservative Party candidate did not suspect that the election in Tiverton in particular was about the attitude of voters to Boris Johnson. She was occasionally booed during her few campaign appearances, often faced with questions about Johnson and his lockdown parties, which on Friday night provided perhaps the most emblematic portrait of the Johnson government these days. While reporters were waiting for her to be suspended in Tiverton, she simply closed herself in a room at the local dance studio.
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