Boris Johnson blames focus on ‘politics and politicians’ for Tory by-election defeat

Watch: Boris Johnson blames "constant litany of stuff about politics and politicians" for Tory by-election defeat

Boris Johnson has blamed "a constant litany of stuff about politics and politicians" for the Tories' crushing defeat in the North Shropshire by-election.

The PM said he takes “personal responsibility” for the loss of the seat that has been held by Tories since its inception almost 200 years ago.

Speaking on Friday at a vaccination centre at Hillingdon Hospital in his Uxbridge constituency, Johnson said: “I’m responsible for everything that the Government does and of course I take personal responsibility.”

Asked which of a stream of recent controversies for his party were to blame for the defeat, he said: “I think that people are frustrated and I understand that.

"Basically what’s been going wrong… is that in the last few weeks some things have been going very well, but what the people have been hearing is just a constant litany of stuff about politics and politicians and stuff that isn’t about them and isn’t about the things that we can do to make life better."

UXBRIDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Britain's Prime Minster Boris Johnson is seen during a constituency visit to a Covid-19 vaccination centre at Hillingdon Hospital on December 17, 2021 in Uxbridge, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The PM looked glum as he visited a vaccination centre in his constituency on Friday (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Liberal Democrat Helen Morgan achieved a momentous win in Thursday’s North Shropshire by-election, taking a seat the Conservatives have held since it was created.

The Lib Dems overturned a majority of almost 23,000 votes to win the seat, after a voter turnout of more than 46%.

Morgan won 17,957 votes, followed by the Conservatives’ Neil Shastri-Hurst with 12,032, and Labour’s Ben Wood at a distant third on 3,686.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of former minister Owen Paterson, following controversy when the government attempted to block his 30-day suspension for breaking lobbying rules.

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Johnson added: “And so to that extent, of course, you’re right – and I think the job of the Government is to make people like you [the media] interested in the booster rollout and in skills, and in housing, and in everything else that we’re doing.

“And unfortunately, you’re totally right, we haven’t been able to get the focus on those issues.”

The defeat came after weeks of controversy surrounded the government, with negative news stories alleging Downing Street staffers held parties when the UK was under COVID restrictions last year.

Liberal Democrat candidate Helen Morgan speaks after being elected as Member of Parliament for North Shropshire at the by-election count centre in Shrewsbury, in the west of England, early on December 17, 2021. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 17 suffered a crushing by-election defeat in a constituency never previously lost by his Conservative Party, a result which raises serious questions about his leadership. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
The Tories suffered a crushing by-election defeat in a constituency never previously lost by the Conservative Party (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Morgan directly addressed the PM in her victory speech, telling Johnson he was "no leader".

She repeatedly targeted the prime minister, saying Conservative voters had been “dismayed by Boris Johnson’s lack of decency and fed up with being taken for granted”.

Speaking after the count in Shrewsbury the 46-year-old accountant said: “Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people. They have said loudly and clearly: Boris Johnson, the party is over.”

Morgan said that while earlier prime ministers “believed in a sense of national service”, with Johnson it is “all about you and never about us”.

She added: “Our country is crying out for leadership. Mr Johnson, you are no leader.”

“Tonight the people of North Shropshire have said enough is enough. They have said that you are unfit to lead and that they want a change.”

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