The prime minister said on Friday that losing the former Tory stronghold of Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats as well as surrendering Wakefield to Labour was tough, but insisted he would listen to voters.
The Conservative party co-chair Oliver Dowden has resigned, saying he and Tory supporters were “distressed and disappointed by recent events”. In a pointed message he pledged his loyalty to the Conservative party rather than Johnson and said “someone must take responsibility”.
The prime minister, speaking to broadcasters 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where he is attending a Commonwealth summit, thanked Dowden for his service in the role. He said he would take responsibility, but that the cost of living crisis was the most important thing for voters.
“It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough byelection 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,” he said. “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.”
Asked if the defeat was because of his leadership, Johnson said the results should be examined in the light of Covid and the cost of living crisis.
“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 byelections, I think if you look back to last May, the truly astonishing thing was we managed to win Hartlepool in very different circumstances,” he said.
Source: The Guardian