Nadhim Zahawi reacts to Local elections results
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Boris Johnson admitted the Tories suffered a “tough night” in Thursday’s local elections as he faced demands from local Conservative leaders to resign over the party’s disappointing results. The Prime Minister’s party lost almost 500 seats and control of 11 councils across England, Scotland and Wales. Voters punished the Tories after an election campaign held in the wake of the Partygate scandal over COVID-19 lockdown-busting events in Downing Street that were attended by Mr Johnson and other Conservatives.
Labour stole the councils of Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster from the Tories, while the Liberal Democrats also made gains, taking Gosport from them.
However, the fallout for the Tories was not as bad as some in the party had feared and, in the capital, the Conservatives did manage to take Harrow from Labour.
Mr Johnson said the results were mixed overall after Labour failed to capitalise on the Partygate scandal as much as some analysts had predicted.
With the Prime Minister remaining in his position, his “fate now lies in the Kremlin” as he is judged over Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, according to Dr Nicholas Dickinson, a political expert from the University of Oxford.
He told Express.co.uk: “I think his fate, to some extent, lies in the Kremlin, regardless of these results now.
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“These results probably would not have dislodged him in any way.
“But certainly since [the war], both because he is perceived to have done well, but also because of the effects on the news agenda, there does not seem to be any appetite within the parliamentary Conservative Party now to remove him.
“The momentum for that was pretty significantly stopped by some behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.”
The political expert referred to covert attempts to save Mr Johnson since January when he had faced a wave of Tory fury over Partygate.
At least nine Conservative MPs had submitted letters of no confidence in his leadership and a string of Tories called for his resignation.
However, since then there have been reports that efforts by Tory whips have saved their leader.
Tortoise media claimed in March that a “shadow whipping operation” took place to save Mr Johnson, which went beyond traditional party whipping by promising Tory MPs jobs and funding if they supported their leader.
Dr Dickinson claimed that behind-the-scenes efforts by the whips and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine both helped secure Mr Johnson’s premiership and avoid a confidence vote over his leadership.
He said: “They did some pretty good work to save him in the really fraught period.
“Then, as soon as soon as the war started, it was very clear, I think, that any appetite to remove them in the short term dissipated.
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“So, the immediate danger, I think, is now over. These results only really confirm that.
“Now, again, whether that is a good idea…
“There is a view that, in a way, this was kind of the worst result for the Conservative Party, because this won’t shock them into action.”
Dr Dickinson also claimed that Mr Johnson may now “limp on” to the next General Election scheduled for 2024, much to some Tories’ dismay.
He said: “If your view is that Boris Johnson can’t win the next election for the Conservative Party, which again, some of the underlying polling kind of shows and the results kind of confirm it, well then it is probably a bad thing that these results weren’t bad enough to dislodge him as leader.
“That he will, in a sense, limp on to the next General Election and lose it.
“Even if Labour don’t win a majority as these results might suggest.
“But if you’re Boris Johnson, of course, you are probably thinking about your own prospects rather than the Conservative Party.
“So, I think Boris Johnson is definitely out of immediate trouble, whether that is a good thing for the Conservatives…”
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