Ministers insist Government must plough on after by-election defeats

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is focused on the task ahead, according to colleagues (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is focused on the task ahead, according to colleagues (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)

Cabinet ministers have insisted the Government must “carry on” after a “perfect storm” led to two stinging by-election defeats for the Tories.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it is “important and right” the Conservatives now have a “moment of reflection” after losing the former Tory stronghold of Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats and surrendering Wakefield to Labour.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said “we all take responsibility for the results”, adding he is determined to “continue working to tackle the cost of living”.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the Government needs to be “relentlessly focused” after facing “distractions” such as partygate.

Questioned repeatedly if things will change following the Tory losses, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes, we’re going to be relentlessly focused on delivery, not allow the distractions of recent times to take our eye off the ball.”

Mr Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, added: “We’ve got a great plan, from the reforms in schools, to the NHS, the criminal justice, the crime fighting plan, but we’ve got to be relentlessly focused on it. The change, to answer your question squarely, is not allowing anything to get in the way of that.

“I think that’s something the Prime Minister, the whole Cabinet, will be focused on.”

He said the double by-election defeats were the result of a “perfect storm” of “very difficult local scenarios” in addition to “the national headwinds”.

“I think the Prime Minister put it well: we need to listen very carefully, we need to take that feedback,” he said.

“I think (with) Tiverton, the most striking thing is how many of our supporters didn’t come out. We need to spend the next two years absolutely relentlessly focused on delivering our plan, without those distractions and with a real calm focus on delivering.”

The Home Secretary said the Prime Minister told her the Government was “cracking on with the task” after the double by-election defeats.

Asked what Boris Johnson said to her following the results, she told LBC: “The fact of the matter is that we’re cracking on with the task.”

Pressed on what the PM said to her, she said: “Yes, exactly that, absolutely, that we are carrying on, working to grow our economy and address the cost of living … and providing the leadership that we need in challenging times.

“We do that collectively, we really do as one Government working together.”

Ms Patel insisted the Government needs to “listen” and “reflect”, but also “carry on” with the job at hand.

“From a Government perspective, we absolutely do need to listen, we need to reflect, and we also do need to carry on concentrating on growing the economy to address the challenges around cost of living, doing much of the work that I do, but alsom… the NHS work – dealing with backlogs and investment – while at the same time providing the leadership that is clearly required in what are very difficult and challenging times,” she said.

The Home Secretary said Oliver Dowden’s decision to quit as Conservative Party chairman was a “loss” to the Government but she did not think there would be any more resignations to follow.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said on social media he was “very sorry” to see Mr Dowden step down, adding: “Fighting these by-elections during these circumstances, beyond your control, was always going to be incredibly difficult.”

Mr Sunak also said he was saddened by the decision.

Meanwhile, business minister Paul Scully came to the Prime Minister’s defence, insisting he is “the man for that job”.

Speaking to Sky News, he warned against engaging in “a three-month psycho-drama of leadership campaigns”.

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