Pressure mounts on UK PM Johnson after crushing election defeats

UK PM Boris Johnson under pressure after losing two parliamentary seats.

Pressure, UK PM Johnson

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - Boris Johnsons Conservatives lost two parliamentary seats on Friday, a crushing blow to the governing party that prompted the resignation of the partys chairman and intensified doubts about the future of Britains prime minister.

In Rwanda for a meeting of Commonwealth nations, Johnson was defiant, pledging to listen to voters concerns and do more to tackle a cost-of-living crisis after what he described as "tough" results in the two so-called by-elections.

The losses - one in the Conservatives traditional southern heartlands and in a northern England seat won from Labour in the last election - suggest the electoral coalition Johnson brought together at the 2019 national election may be fracturing.

The transformation of Johnson from vote winner to electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him again after months of scandal over COVID-19 lockdown parties at a time when millions are struggling with rising food and fuel prices.

This month he survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers, though 41% of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation by a committee over whether he intentionally misled parliament.

"It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election results... I think as a government I’ve got to listen to what people are saying," Johnson told broadcasters in Kigali after the results.

Following the losses in Tiverton and Honiton in southwest England, and Wakefield in the north, Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden resigned in a carefully worded letter that hinted he believed Johnson should take responsibility for the election defeats.

"Yesterdays parliamentary by-elections are the latest in a run of very poor results for our party. Our supporters are distressed and disappointed by recent events, and I share their feelings," Dowden said in a resignation letter to Johnson.

"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," added Dowden, a long-time ally of Johnson.

Several Conservative lawmakers tweeted support for Dowden, saying he was not to blame for the results in messages that suggested resurgent dissent against Johnsons leadership.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a speech at the Business Forum during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda June 23, 2022. Dan Kitwood/Pool via REUTERS

Although under his partys rules Johnson cannot face another confidence motion for a year, lawmakers fearing for their own futures may decide to reduce the grace period to bring about a second vote.

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