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Ex-Tory leader and former Folkestone MP Michael Howard tells Boris Johnson to resign

A former Conservative leader has urged Boris Johnson to step down after last night's double by-election disaster.

Lord Howard, who was MP for Folkestone and Hythe, even urged the Cabinet to consider resigning, as Conservative MPs told of their fears of losing their seats at the next general election under the current Prime Minister’s leadership.

Lord Howard: Library picture: Barry Goodwin
Lord Howard: Library picture: Barry Goodwin

The Tory peer told BBC Radio 4’s the World At One programme: “The party and even more importantly the country would now be better off under new leadership.

“Members of the Cabinet should very carefully consider their positions.”

He said he “very reluctantly” came to the conclusion after Thursday’s elections showed he no longer had the ability to win elections.

Lord Howard was the Conservative leader from 2003 to 2005 when he failed to stop Tony Blair gaining his final general election victory. Shortly afterwards, David Cameron took over as Conservative leader.

He was the MP for Folkestone and Hythe from 1983 until his retirement in 2010 when he was replaced by fellow Tory Damian Collins.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA

Lord Howard was also Home Secretary from 1993 to 1997.

In the Devon constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, the Lib Dems overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win a 6,144 lead, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield. It got a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7.

Both by-elections were held after the previous Tory MPs had to quit under a cloud.

Neil Parish left as MP for Tiverton and Honinton after he was caught watching pornography in Parliament.

The previous Wakefield MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, quit after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy – a crime for which he was jailed for 18 months.

Wakefield was one of the so-called red wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being Labour since the 1930s.

These polls were also seen as a chance for voters to have their say on Mr Johnson after he recently survived a confidence vote but had 148 of his MPs cast their ballots against him.

Long-term critic North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale repeated his call for him to resign, following this morning's resgination of Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden.

Mr Johnson today insisted he would continue in his post.

He said he would take responsibility, but insisted the cost-of-living crisis was the most important issue for voters and it was “true that, in mid-term, governments post-war lose by-elections”.

He stressed: “It’s absolutely true we’ve had some tough by-election 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.”

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