Boris Johnson brushes off by-election defeats ahead of G7 meetings

Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking part in TV interviews during the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has tried to brush off the stinging double by-election defeat he suffered last week as he seeks to promote his successes at the G7 summit in Germany.

The prime minister is meeting counterparts at the summit on the latest leg of a series of international gatherings which have kept him out of the UK, as questions loom over his future.

The Conservative Party leader is facing pressure from across the political divide following the double by-election defeat in Wakefield, and Tiverton and Honiton, further fuelled by the shock resignation of a Cabinet minister.

Oliver Dowden stood down as Tory co-chairman in the wake of the losses early on Friday morning, saying he and Conservative supporters were “distressed and disappointed by recent events”, and telling Mr Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

The prime minister is facing disquiet from his backbenchers who are unhappy with the results of the by-election and haven't forgotten the larger than expected number of MPs who voted no confidence in his leadership a few weeks ago.

Trying to shore up the prime minister's leadership Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Monday Mr Johnson has the full backing of the Cabinet.

Mr Eustice told Sky News: “The way that collective government works is that those who are in the Cabinet, yes, we have our full support. We work as a team. We have the support of the prime minister, the prime minister has our support, we work together and we stick together through difficult times.”

He said that the two by-election defeats were “very disappointing”, but stressed that Mr Johnson’s senior ministers would continue to work together to back him.

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“We’ve got an important agenda that we’re working on, and that’s what we’re all focused on.”

In an interview with ITV at the G7 summit, the prime minister said the government will continue to do “remarkable” things.

Asked for his biggest regret of his tenure so far, he said: “I’m going to leave that to further reflection, I haven’t had time to think about that.”

Despite his upbeat words, the PM has been hit by a fresh wave of no-confidence letters after revealing his aspiration to lead the country for not two, but three terms, according to The Telegraph.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently travelled to Rwanda, and his political troubles travelled with him. Credit: PA

It comes amid suggestions of a move to change the rules of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs in order to allow another vote of confidence in Mr Johnson within the next year.

The PM said over the weekend during a trip to Rwanda that he is “thinking actively” about fighting the next two general elections to become the longest-serving post-war leader.

Asked at the G7 summit in Germany on Sunday if his ambitions were delusional, Mr Johnson said: “What I’m saying is this is a government that is getting on with delivering for the people of this country and we’ve got a huge amount to do.”

He said the “golden rule” is to “focus on what we are doing” – to address the cost of living, the “massive” plan for a stronger economy, and “making sure that the UK continues to offer the kind of leadership around the world that I know our people want”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey celebrates the by-election victory in Tiverton. Credit: PA

But the expressions of discontent have kept on coming from his own backbenches, with Damian Green, who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, warning the Government “needs to alter both its style and content” and calling on Cabinet members with leadership hopes to show their stripes.

In the by-election in the Devon constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, a dramatic swing of almost 30% from the Conservatives saw their 24,000 majority overturned by the Liberal Democrats.

In West Yorkshire, Labour seized back Wakefield with a majority of 4,925 on a swing of 12.7% from the Tories.