Steerpike

Tory MPs: don’t blame Boris for these by-elections

Tory MPs: don’t blame Boris for these by-elections
Boris Johnson in Rwanda, escaping a hostile political environment (photo: Getty)
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The partygate scandal has left a long hangover. Westminster is waking up to the news that Tory seats in both the ‘red’ and ‘blue wall’ have fallen respectively to the Lib Dems and Labour. In true form, Sir Ed Davey is claiming the Tiverton result is the ‘biggest by-election victory we’ve ever seen’ (it wasn’t) while it transpires that harping on about Harold Shipman in Wakefield isn’t a good strategy for holding a northern marginal either. Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, has already bit the bullet this morning by resigning – but there’s one person who definitely isn’t to blame according to some of his colleagues: Boris Johnson.

Already the more stringent Boris backers are lining up behind the man they call ‘the boss’ to claim that Johnson’s recent woes had absolutely nothing to do with the two stonking defeats. Early out the blocks was Michael Fabricant, the sage of Staffordshire. He believes the loss of one of the top 100 Tory seats on a 30 per cent swing is ‘not surprising’ as the ‘cost of living crisis to blame’ but the ‘media will try to say it's all about Boris as they are desperate to get rid of him.’ If only we knew who the First Lord of the Treasury was, eh?

On Sky News, meanwhile, Paul Scully had the invidious job of defending the PM. He suggested that ‘people have been chasing the Prime Minister since he was mayor and before’, adding ‘people have been gunning for him for some time.’ Yes, because it was those dastardly hacks who introduced lockdown and then broke into No. 10 and took all those pictures. As Theresa May’s former pollster James Johnson points out, the main reason that Wakefield’s swing voters chose Labour was: ‘Boris Johnson tried to cover up partygate, and lied to the public’, followed by ‘Boris Johnson is not in touch with working-class people.’

Has anyone else in government got any better lines for No. 10’s hapless spokesmen? If so, send them to Conservative Campaign HQ on 4 Matthew Parker St, London, SW1H 9HQ as a matter of urgency…

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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