Boris Johnson is heading for a double drubbing in by-elections

The prime minister’s unpopularity is about to be brought home to Conservative MPs in dramatic fashion, writes John Rentoul

Thursday 12 May 2022 17:17
<p>‘When a dog bites you, you never know if it’s going to bite you again. You can never trust him’ </p>

‘When a dog bites you, you never know if it’s going to bite you again. You can never trust him’

There is a by-election in Devon today – to choose a town councillor for the Lowman ward on Tiverton town council. It will be a three-way contest between the Conservative candidate, the Labour candidate and an independent, because the Liberal Democrats are not standing. Tiverton is not really a Lib Dem area. It has long been solidly Conservative.

Yet the Lib Dems are almost certain to win the next by-election there, the parliamentary by-election to replace Neil Parish, the tractor-loving MP. The southwest used to be home to a string of Lib Dem strongholds, but nearly every citadel fell in the great post-coalition cull of 2015.

Since then, however, two things have happened. One is that the Lib Dems won a by-election in December in Shropshire North, which is similarly not particularly fertile political territory for them. The pro-EU party was in third place, behind Labour, in Owen Paterson’s Leave-voting seat, and yet the voters there sensed that they were a suitable vehicle for protest against a government that was losing its way – and this was even before the police announced that they would be investigating lockdown law-breaking in Downing Street.

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