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Boris’s majority reduced to wafer-thin 1

The Conservative Party was defeated on Thursday by the Liberal Democrats in a by-election

By Amit Roy in London

  • Published 3.08.19, 2:34 AM
  • Updated 3.08.19, 2:34 AM
“So much for the Boris Bounce!” the Daily Mail summed up.
“So much for the Boris Bounce!” the Daily Mail summed up. (AP)

Boris Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons has been reduced from two to one after the Conservative Party was defeated on Thursday by the Liberal Democrats in a by-election in the mid-Wales constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire.

“So much for the Boris Bounce!” the Daily Mail summed up.

The result means it will be even harder -– many will say impossible- – for Boris to get a no-deal Brexit through parliament by October 31, even though he has got a new clock installed in 10 Downing Street to show time ticking down to the deadline he has imposed for his government.

Normally, governments are resigned to losing by-elections in mid-term but this one took on symbolic importance because it was held barely a week after Boris replaced Theresa May as Prime Minister, inspiring much speculation about a “Boris bounce”.

The result, announced at about 3am on Friday -– counting in the UK is still done by hand slip by slip -– was as follows: Jane Dodds (Lib Dem) 13,826 (43.4 per cent of votes cast); Chris Davies (Conservative) 12,401 (39 per cent); Des Parkinson (Brexit) 3,331 (10.5 per cent); Tom Davies (Labour) 1,680 (5.3 per cent); Lady Lily The Pink (Official Monster Raving Loony Party – a fixture at all by-elections) 334 (1 per cent); Liz Phillips (UKIP) 242 (0.8 per cent).

There were some special circumstances in this by-election. Davies won the seat from the Lib Dems in 2015 and secured a majority of 8,038 in the 2017 general election. The by-election was caused after he pleaded guilty in March to submitting two false expenses invoices for nine photographs costing £700 to decorate his new office.

He was fined £1,500, ordered to pay £2,500 towards legal costs and told to carry out 50 hours of community service. But after considering his record as a creditable MP for the constituency, his local party allowed him to stand again.

Dodds, the Welsh Lib Dem leader who took the seat back for her party with a majority of 1,425 on a 59.7 per cent turnout – the highest for a by-election since 1997 – immediately issued a challenge to Boris: “My very first act as your new MP when I get to Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson, wherever he’s hiding, and tell him to stop playing with the future of our community and rule out a no deal Brexit.”

The Indian origin Lib Dem deputy leader in the Lords, Navnit Dholakia, told The Telegraph: “We are delighted to win the election in Wales and now for the Sheffield by-election when it is announced. This is Clegg’s old seat and revenge will be sweet.”

This is a reference to Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, who was ousted by Jared O’Mara, an independent, in the general election in 2017. The latter is standing down as an MP because of mental health issues.

Boris put in appearance in Brecon and Radnorshire in support of Davies, but his personal endorsement was not enough to overturn what was predicted to be a Lib Dem win. Two other parties — Plaid Cymru and the Greens — did not field candidates to try to maximise the Remain vote.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: “I am proud that the leadership shown by Plaid Cymru in creating a spirit of cooperation between pro-Remain parties has led to the election of Jane Dodds as the new MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.

“It’s now time that people throughout these islands are heard, too, in a ‘Final Say’ referendum.

“But if the Prime Minister is intent on a general election, he should know that Plaid Cymru and the other pro-Remain parties are committed to cooperating so that we beat Brexit once and for all.”

So, there is a chance that in the end the UK will not leave the EU after all.

The Tories now have 310 MPs in the Commons. With the support of the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the total comes to 320. The opposition parties have 319 MPs – giving Boris a majority of one.

And he cannot even count on all Tory MPs. There is also the possibility that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will successfully table a no-confidence motion against Boris.

The newly-elected Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: “Boris Johnson’s shrinking majority makes it clear that he has no mandate to crash us out of the EU.

“I will do whatever it takes to stop Brexit. We now have one more MP who will vote against Brexit in Parliament.”

All this puts Indians in the UK in a dilemma. They like the look of the Boris government partly because of the “Indian look” of the cabinet but agree with Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, that Brexit would devastate the economy. 

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