While on an official visit to Kigali, Rwanda, Boris Johnson faced a hammer blow on Friday after suffering a major defeat in the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections, which saw opposition parties Labour and Libdem take over the two constituencies. While LibDem snatched Tiverton and Honiton, Labour took Wakefield in a blow to Boris Johnson’s standing within the Conservative Party. The byelections were seen as another test for Boris Johnson following Partygate and the disastrous local election results where the Conservative Party lost three Tory strongholds.
Despite calls for a new approach to governance, Mr Johnson has outright dismissed any change in his character on BBC Sounds.
BBC Radio 4 Today’s host Mishal Husain began by asking what lessons he had taken away from this election defeat. “I’m not hearing you say, I’ve heard what the voters have said and I am going to change,” she said.
Boris Johnson said: “Yeah, so what we’re going to change…”
He then erupted: “If you want me – sorry – let us be absolutely clear Mishal, if you’re saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that your listeners would know that it’s not going to happen.”
Mr Johnson continued: “But what you can do and what the government should do, and what I want to do, is to get on with changing reforms and improving our systems and our economy.”
BBC’s Mishal Husain then asked: “Which criticism of you do you think have a point, are fair?”
“Let me tell you exactly what I think”, Boris Johnson replied. “I think that if I look both at Tiverton and Wakefield, I think probably voters were really fed up with hearing a lot of conversations about me in relation to things that they thought I shouldn’t have been doing. Stuff that I got wrong.
“When what they want to hear about was what we were doing for them, for the country and for their lives. And so, the lesson I take we’ve just got to get the focus on all the things that we’re going to take the country forward.”
READ MORE: Boris vows to get on with ‘job of a leader’ following by-elections
“And there are three big priorities for me. There’s tackling the cost of living, there are plans for a stronger economy and then making sure that the UK continues as we’re doing here in Kigali to bring people together at an absolutely crucial moment in standing up to violence and aggression on the European continent.
“Now, those three projects are each of them tricky. They require a great deal of focus and a great deal of leadership and energy.”
This new election defeat comes as Boris Johnson has a tied-up foreign agenda. While the by-elections happened, the Prime Minister was in Rwanda for a Commonwealth heads of government summit. He will then travel to G7 and NATO summits in Germany and Spain. It is feared Tory rebels could take advantage of his absence to restart efforts to oust him.
The by-elections’ defeat also prompted the Conservative Chairman Oliver Dowden to resign.
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