Johnson fails in first electoral test
The new UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has seen his parliamentary majority cut to one after losing the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats.
It was not a resounding victory for the pro-remain movement with the pro-leave vote split between Johnson’s Conservatives and the newly formed Brexit Party of Nigel Farage.
The seat at been a major target for the LibDems, with activists bussed from across the country to the constituency that voted leave in the 2016 referendum.
The Lib Dems received 13,826 votes with the Tories taking 12,401, a margin of 1,425 that overturned a comfortable Conservative majority of more than 8,000 from the 2017 general election.
Crucial to the victory was a new “pro-EU alliance” with the Green Party and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, not fielding candidates to boost the Lib Dem chance of victory.
Plaid leader Adam Price said the “spirit of co-operation” between the pro-remain parties had led to victory, as he called for a people’s vote on the Brexit crisis.
“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,” the Welsh nationalist leader added.
The pro-remain camp will be wanting to see similar cooperation at any future general election.
The main opposition Labour Party was crushed with 1,680 votes, beaten into fourth place by Brexit with 3,331 in a humiliation that will mount pressure on Labour’s ailing leftist leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
The new MP Jane Dodds said: “I am incredibly humbled by the support. From every walk of life and every political persuasion, people have chosen to believe in my positive liberal vision for something better.
“And by backing that liberal vision, people in Brecon and Radnorshire have sent a powerful message to Westminster: we demand better.
“People are desperately crying out for a different kind of politics. There is no time for tribalism when our country is faced with a Boris Johnson government and the threat of a no-deal Brexit.
“My very first act as your MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson, wherever he’s hiding, and tell him loud and clear: stop playing with the futures of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit.”
But the Johnson administration does not appear to be looking for a compromise.
The new finance minister, Sajid Javid, has written to the UK tax authority, the HM Revenue and Customs, telling it to make preparing for a hard Brexit its “absolute top priority”.
He ordered the organisation to help the public prepare for no-deal, including setting up a business helpline and contacting employers directly.
A union for civil servants, the FDA, said rather than blaming government staff, politicians should address the “lack of ministerial strategy or direction”.
Wales appears to be moving away from its pro-leave vote in 2016. Picture credit: Eurasia Times