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(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is heading for a thumping defeat in this month’s special election in Wakefield, according to a poll published in the Sunday Times, a result that would heighten speculation over the prime minister’s long-term future.
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According to a J.L. Partners survey of 501 adults in Wakefield, the main opposition Labour Party has 48% support. Wakefield in Yorkshire is one of the historically Labour-voting constituencies in northern England -- the so-called Red Wall -- that helped deliver a huge majority for Johnson in the 2019 general election.
While the Tories have just 28%, much of their decline comes from voters turning to the Greens and the Liberal Democrats rather than to Keir Starmer’s Labour -- a factor that could potentially prove less damaging to Johnson.
The Conservatives also face a bruising defeat the same day, June 23, in another special election at Tiverton & Honiton in southwestern England -- both votes are the result of the incumbent Tory member of Parliament stepping down because of separate sex scandals. According to betting site Smarkets.com, the Lib Dems are an 81% probability to take the Tiverton seat. Labour has a 95% chance to triumph in Wakefield.
The prospect of a confidence vote in Johnson has grown in recent days, with dozens of lawmakers stating he should quit because they don’t think he can successfully lead the Tories to another general election victory.
MPs could hold the vote as soon as Monday, according to the Times, which also cited an unidentified former cabinet minister saying there’s an 80% likelihood it would happen after the June 23 by-elections. Still, partly because the ultimate decision on who leads the Conservatives lies with party members in the shires, betting patterns on smarkets.com suggest the chances of Johnson leading the Tories into the general election remain finely balanced.
Johnson has been damaged by a probe into the so-called partygate scandal that unveiled the details of repeated Covid rule-breaking gatherings, while many of his Tory MPs are frustrated with his chaotic leadership style, as well as a series of unforced errors and policy u-turns. Added to that, the cost-of-living crisis engulfing swaths of Britain has rendered Johnson increasingly vulnerable to attack.
In a sign of how a politician who thrives on the personal touch has lost his way, Johnson and his wife Carrie were booed by flag-waving crowds outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.
The fact that it happened at an event to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne shows that the nation has had enough of Johnson and his party, according to Labour’s Starmer.
“They booed the prime minister,” Starmer told the Press Association. “They are fed up with the government.”
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