Uxbridge by-election: We asked voters what they think of Boris Johnson. Here’s what they said

In his now former seat of Uxbridge, Boris Johnson remains a popular figure. Harriet Sinclair spoke to his ex-constituents on the day they voted in his replacement

Boris Johnson continues to divide opinion in his former seat of Uxbridge. (Yahoo/Harriet Sinclair, Getty)
Boris Johnson continues to divide opinion in his former seat of Uxbridge. (Yahoo/Harriet Sinclair, Getty)

"He's like Trump", a "buffoon", "a bit of a character" and "the best thing to happen to the area".

If political hopefuls in Uxbridge were expecting a by-election free from the spectacle of Boris Johnson, they'll have been left sorely disappointed.

The former prime minister may have resigned his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat last month in a spectacular flounce after the Partygate investigation found he intentionally misled Parliament - but his shadow looms large in the west London area he had represented since 2015, judging by the constituents Yahoo News spoke to yesterday.

So enticing is the draw to discuss Johnson that one constituent, overhearing a conversation about the disgraced prime minister, U-turns in the street to "speak my mind", one bursts out laughing when they're asked if they'll miss Boris, another simply shouts "good riddance" as they pass.

'Not an ounce of decency'

Two local voters are absolutely aghast to discover some people in Uxbridge are still fans of Johnson, "It's appalling - it would be like voting for Trump," says Sarah Miles, 76. "We don't know anyone who thinks any different, do we?" she asks her friend who nods, having branded Johnson "a bit of a crook".

Boris Johnson meeting with Wealdstone fc and  KSMIC of London during meeting at Widewater place, Uxbridge(Darren Campbell)  darren1972@gmail.com  Self
Boris Johnson remains popular with a number of his former constituents, once of whom described him as the best thing to happen to Uxbridge. (Alamy)

"I don't like him at all, everything I stand for in my life he stands for the complete opposite - I don't think he's got an ounce of decency in him to be honest," another voter tells me.

Others cautiously admit they might miss the caricaturistic figure of Johnson in politics, with one decided Labour voter, Callsuma Ali, commenting: "I've never voted Boris but ... I think Boris leaving has upset quite a lot of residents - he is popular here, largely due to his character. Although I wasn't his biggest fan, it's a very different story when your local MP is the prime minister."

A number of locals speak of the hope they had for change in the area with a PM at the helm, yet have a litany of complaints about issues at the local hospital (Hillingdon, rated 'inadequate'), crime, transport and growth in an area where A-roads and tired shopping centres meet the greenery of Buckinghamshire.

Almost everyone who says they are a diehard Johnson fan, of whom there are a still a fair amount - even in the decades-old Conservative stronghold, regurgitates (almost word for word) the same line about the former prime minister: that he speaks his mind.

It's a characteristic Johnson claimed for himself in 2019, shortly before he became PM, stating: "I will continue to speak my mind because I think people deserve to hear what’s going on in my head".

And over the next four years, what Johnson actually said may have mattered less to some of his constituents than the idea that it's a good thing to say whatever pops into your head, regardless of the consequences. (Indeed, in Johnson's case, what he said literally cost him his job as PM)

FILE - Boris Johnson leaves his house in London, on March 22, 2023. A U.K. court on Thursday, July 6, 2023, rejected the British government's request to keep former Prime Minister Boris Johnson's unredacted WhatsApp messages and diaries from being made public at an official COVID-19 inquiry. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)
Boris Johnson's former seat has narrowly remained in Conservative hands after the party lost two other byelections.(AP Photo)

'I miss him'

"I know people say he was no good, but he was 'what you see is what you get' and if he says something then he says it," Marion Preater, 81, tells Yahoo News UK. "Keir Starmer won't answer any questions, but Boris - I liked him.

"We need someone with a bit of guts, a bit of drive - somebody who if they say something means it and does something about it."

"I like Boris, I thought he was a good bloke. He's a bit of a character isn't he," local resident Bill Stevens, 60, adds. "He was hounded out - he joined during COVID. I just think he had a couple of parties, a lot of people did that."

Marion Preater said she would miss Boris Johnson (Yahoo News)
Marion Preater said she would miss Boris Johnson (Yahoo News)

"I think he was outspoken, you got what you got, he was a man of his word," says Troy Madaway, 57. "He was just unlucky at the time he took over - he had Brexit, COVID, he just didn't have a chance to fulfil what he was going to do.

"All the fuss made about the garden parties - fair enough he did wrong, but I'd say 90% of people were having garden parties, he wasn't the only one, and the stress he must have been under - who doesn't deserve a little drink? I'd like him back, I miss him. Some people think he was a bit of a buffoon but that's what I liked about him - you never knew what he was going to say next."

Leon Jeanmonod, who has lived in the area for 30 years and said he was worried about the possibility of a Labour victory, agrees: "He was fairly straight talking - he waffled but he believes what he says, and says what he wants to say.

"Labour have been pushing really hard. I live really locally and the amount of knocks on the door from Labour ... because Boris is gone so they think they'll walk it."

Others talk of the benefits of having a local MP who also held the role of PM, "It was good, I think he was good," says Hader Hammoodi, 43, who has lived in Uxbridge since he relocated from Iraq 10 years ago. "He knows the area, I think the area may change now."

Hader Hammoodi said he thought it made a difference having a local MP who was also prime minister (Yahoo News)
Hader Hammoodi said he thought it made a difference having a local MP who was also prime minister (Yahoo News)

"He was the best thing that happened in Uxbridge, we were well happy when we got him," says Christine Lunham, 69. "We liked Boris anyway but when he became our MP, it was brilliant.

"He had some good ideas, he was a genuine person and as far as politicians go they just were out to get him and that was it - they got it in the end. The writing was on the wall - he was too popular, too good so they were going to get him whatever way they could."

"We like it from the hip," agrees her husband Alfred, 70, who says Johnson's straight-talking is a rarity in politics.

(Yahoo News UK)
Christine and Alfred Lunham said they liked that Johnson said it from the hip. (Yahoo News UK)

For his supporters, Johnson's legacy in Uxbridge (arguably the same as his time as prime minister) is more about personality than policy.

His detractors tell Yahoo he didn't visit the constituency regularly enough, saying he only showed up to "take selfies" and failed to tackle real problems in the area like the "inadequate" Hillingdon Hospital, or recent stabbings.

'Voters won't turn out for Sunak'

With a general election looming, Thursday's three by-elections were seen by some as an early litmus test for Rishi Sunak's chances of holding on to Tory power.

On a chastening day, the Conservatives lost two of their three seats (Selby and Ainsty and in Somerton and Frome) while clinging on to Uxbridge.

However, though Sunak said afterwards the victory proved the next general election is not “a done deal”, Johnson's 7,210 majority in 2019 was actually decimated to just 495 votes.

"The swing and the numbers show v clearly, angry Tories won’t turn out for Sunak - they know how to administer their own justice," Johnson ally Nadine Dorries tweeted following the results.

As with all by-elections, local issues ranked high on a list of all voters' concerns in Uxbridge, with residents clamouring to talk about ULEZ - namely, how journeys to work were costing them thousands of pounds a year, families visiting from out of town were being hit with huge bills, and people were opting to take far longer journeys after working late nights to avoid the charge.

Boris was a 'bit of a character'
Boris was a 'bit of a character', said resident Bill Stevens. (Yahoo News UK)

It was an issue the Conservatives targeted, furiously batting back against the policy throughout the campaign - while the local Labour candidate Danny Beales flip-flopped on the issue by comparison, likely costing him the win.

The potential sea-change did have long-time Tory voters in the area worried; "fingers crossed we'll do it," one said before the count, "we do need a change, as long as it stays Conservative".

Others believed it was time a new party took over in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, "I wanted a change, I voted Conservative in the previous election and decided to vote Labour," says Husthani Utharsam, 38. "All of our family wanted a change." However, she's not celebrating Johnson's departure: "I don't think I'm pleased he's gone - I think he might come back," she says.

(Yahoo News UK)
Husthani Utharsam said a Johnson comeback was possible. (Yahoo News UK)

It's not a unique sentiment - a number of voters seem to anticipate a potential Johnson comeback, to varying degrees of enthusiasm.

"He'll make a comeback. If he was MP today, he's got the popularity to win," Jeff Cohen, 44, says. "His factor - you look at the majority they got - that's him, that's Boris Johnson. He's got that wow factor, whether you like him or not - and if he came back as an independent he would take the area back.

"He's a bit of a rogue but he's got that likability whereas the other ones, the Hancocks of the world, they are rogues and they're slimy."

Voter Jeff Cohen said Johnson's likability meant he'd be back. (Yahoo News UK)
Voter Jeff Cohen said Johnson's likability meant he'd be back. (Yahoo News UK)

Johnson himself said as he resigned that he would be standing down "for now", leaving the door open for a potential future political bid, which pundits muse could be anything from another run as London Mayor to standing as an independent MP.

For now, the former prime minister appears content with a six-figure paycheque for his Daily Mail column, which has seen him mull everything from the effectiveness of weight-loss drug Ozempiac to the plight of the passengers on the doomed Titan sub.

To his former constituents, he urged in one recent op-ed: "Vote Conservative in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, vote for Steve Tuckwell, and vote for a Tory mayor to scrap the driving tax."

His voice, it seems, still holds some weight.