Tory MP warns against 'rationalising' dramatic by-election defeats

Conservative Duncan Baker speaks after becoming the new MP for North Norfolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLE

Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, warned that his party should not rationalise the twin by-election defeats as 'mid-term blues' - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

A Norfolk Tory MP has warned that his party must not "rationalise" two damaging by-election defeats as "mid-term blues".

Duncan Baker, who represents North Norfolk, said the Conservatives' twin defeats in Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, and Wakefield in West Yorkshire, were "extremely disappointing". 

With a former Conservative majority of 24,239, Tiverton and Honiton had been the 41st-safest Conservative seat in the country, prior to it's capture by the Lib Dems on a historic 30pc swing this week. 

Wakefield, which had been taken by the Conservatives in 2019, meanwhile returned to Labour on a 12.7pc swing. The margin of victory as a percentage in the seat was larger than it had been in Tony Blair's 2005 general election victory. 

Asked whether Boris Johnson should lead his party into the next election, Mr Baker - who serves as parliamentary private secretary to three ministers - said: "Without doubt both election results were extremely disappointing for the party.

"However the results paint very different pictures at either end of the country.

"What is clear is there is deep unhappiness and what we mustn’t do is rationalise these results as mid-term by-election ‘blues’ - they are not.

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"In Tiverton there was clear tactical voting, yet the combined Lib/Lab vote was still only 3,000 votes more than 2019. However, there was a monumental fall in the total number of voters who simply did not turn out to vote.

"This apathy, is a serious problem and gives the Conservative Party a real cause for concern."

Waveney's Conservative MP, Peter Aldous - who was among the 54 or more MPs to call for the PM's resignation earlier this year - said: "They were obviously very disappointing results but I sense there was an inevitability about them that resulted in the resignation of [Conservative party chairman] Oliver Dowden.

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

"I respect his decision and I hope the leadership of the Conservative Party reflects on and acts on his words."

On whether he thought Boris Johnson should lead the Conservative Party into the next election, he said: "I have made my views on Boris Johnson known. We had a vote of no confidence some three weeks ago.

"When you have these things you move on from them but it would be perverse if I had a view in February, that I still held three weeks ago, if I didn't hold it now." 

Jerome Mayhew MP for Broadland has said the Conservative Party now needs to work to earn back trust.

He said: “People will have had many different reasons for their votes, ranging from the cost of living, delays in public services as we work through the Covid backlog, public sector pay disputes as well as a feeling of loss of trust as a result of Partygate.

“The Government has two years to earn back that trust, and the right to be heard at the next election, by proving again and again that it is tackling the serious challenges the public want confronted head on: the battle against global inflation, supporting economic growth so that we can start to reduce taxation, developing energy security, tackling international migration, the NHS backlog, access to GPs and dentistry, particularly here in Norfolk, and much more. 

"Competent government, where we are prepared to take the difficult decisions to improve the country, is the right response to these election results.”

Mr Mayhew has not said how he voted in Mr Johnson's no confidence vote.