Boris Johnson issued a defiant note after his Conservatives suffered two major electoral defeats this week, saying he would not undergo a “psychological transition”.
The British Prime Minister, speaking at a Commonwealth summit in Rwanda, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today program on Saturday morning that he would instead focus on issues such as the cost of living and war in Ukraine.
Oliver Dowden, former chairman of the Tory party, resigns within minutes result of Wakefield in West Yorkshire and Tiverton in Devon on Friday, published an implicit letter criticizing Johnson’s leadership.
Asked if he’d changed after that resignation, Johnson said: “If you said you wanted me to go through some kind of psychological transition, I think our listeners would know that would be. not occur.”
He added that every government was “disappointed” by the disappointing by-election results in the middle of parliament.
The loss of Tiverton to the Liberal Democrats – after a majority of 24,239 – led many Tory MPs to believe they were in danger of losing their seats.
Wakefield’s move to Labor also puts the “Red Wall” of former Labor seats Johnson occupied in the 2019 election under threat.
The prime minister suggested the government could implement further fuel tax cuts if petrol prices remained high and said the controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda would eventually work.
Johnson’s prime ministership was picked up by “partygate”, when workplace gatherings that broke Covid lockdown rules resulted in more than 100 fines, and by the cost of living crisis. On Friday, senior figures including Michael Howard, the former leader of the Tory party, called for his resignation.
Johnson survived a confidence vote earlier this month, even though 148 MPs voted to remove him. Downing Street is set for rebel Tory MPs in a concerted effort to change Conservative party rules to prevent a second challenge within 12 months.
The 1922 backbench commissioner, the body that sets the rules, will soon hold elections for key posts. Some rebels, including supporter Andrew Bridgen, are planning to fight to change the 12-month rule, but the current leadership is not keen.
“It’s not fair to change the rules in half time, because you’re 1-0 down,” said one MP on the committee.