The Four By-Elections Challenge: Rishi Sunak Faces Another Tory MP Resignation


Rishi Sunak is facing four by-elections following the resignation of another Tory MP.
David Warburton resigned immediately, and it emerged on Sunday following accusations of sexual harassment and cocaine use.
In his resignation letter, he said he had been left with “no choice” but to provoke “the upheaval of a by-election”, saying he had been denied a fair hearing by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) and prevented from “speaking out” while it probed the accusations.
Warburton said: “I hope that, in so doing, I can freely illuminate the methods of an oversight system not fit for purpose so that friends and colleagues in the House can see the perverted process by which their judgement may at any time be freighted.”
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Warburton admitted to taking cocaine after drinking “tons of incredibly potent” Japanese whiskey but denied claims that he harassed a female political aide in his Westminster flat.

Rishi Sunak Faces Four Critical By-Elections as Tory MP Resigns

His resignation adds to the by-elections facing the prime minister this summer.
Here are the four seats up for grabs and their political history.
Somerton and Frome
Warburton’s resignation triggers a by-election in the Somerset constituency of Somerton and Frome.
Warburton, who had been sitting in the Commons as an independent after having the Tory whip suspended last April over the allegations around him, took the seat from the Liberal Democrats in 2015.
Four years ago, Boris Johnson won an election for the Tories with an 80-seat majority, their most significant victory since 1987. But his fall from grace has been so steep that he is not even an MP today. The Conservative leader, who quit as British Prime Minister in July last year amid an inner-party revolt, announced his resignation as a lawmaker after a House committee probing the ‘Partygate’ scandal found that he had misled Parliament.

Analyzing the Implications of a Resigning Tory MP on Four Electoral Battles

Mr Johnson, when Prime Minister, had attended a host of parties during the COVID-19 lockdown, breaking the rules imposed on the public by his government; he then told the House of Commons that “all guidance was followed completely in No 10 (Downing Street)”. Last year, a report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, offered details of the social events he had attended during the lockdown. The MP’s panel recommended his lengthy suspension from the House, and he announced his resignation before the report was made public. Mr Johnson, a former journalist-turned-politician whose hyperbole conservatism and hardline nationalism helped him rise to the top of the Conservative Party during the chaotic Brexit years, did not go quietly. He accused the committee, which has Labour, Liberal and Conservative MPs as its members, of a “witch hunt” and slammed the report as “revenge for Brexit”.

One of the biggest highlights of Mr Johnson’s political career as Prime Minister or a backbencher was his abject disregard for accountability. He neither took responsibility for violating lockdown rules nor repented for lying to Parliament. Even while exiting the House, Mr Johnson attacked an imagined racket of Remainers rather than coming to terms with the mess he left behind in the Conservative Party. His continued attack on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose rebellion against Mr Johnson as a member of his Cabinet quickened the Tory leader’s fall as Prime Minister, sounds more political than a constructive assessment of the government’s performance. Mr Johnson’s resignation leaves Mr Sunak facing a more challenging situation. Three Tory MPs, including Mr Johnson, have quit recently, and Labour expects to win all three seats in by-elections.

Faced with back-to-back setbacks in by-elections and local votes, the Tories, whose public support is around 30% against Labour’s 40% in opinion polls, are already under pressure. Mr Johnson has dropped hints of a comeback. There are talks in political circles about forming a right-wing party. It needs to be clarified what he will do next. But he has already done enough damage to the Tories. Any attempt at a political comeback will further destabilise the party and rupture Britain’s conservative political landscape that is caught between Brexit isolationism, a battered economy at home and an unrealistic quest to “make Britain great again”.

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Olivia Wilson

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