Moving the Needle

Boris Johnswon’s seat as Prime Minister got immeasurably more tippy in a Wales by-election that reduces his Parliamentary Majority to a single vote.

In a flash, Boris Johnson’s working majority in Britain’s Parliament is now just one seat
By William Booth, Washington Post
August 2, 2019

In February, three Conservative members of Parliament quit the party over Brexit to form a new independent group in the House of Commons.

There have also been five by-election contests since the 2017 general elections — two lawmakers faced recall petitions, two resigned from office and one died.

If Johnson’s pledge to get Britain out by October is threatened, many assume he might call a snap election to seek a greater majority in Parliament — but this result makes it unclear how he and his party would fare.

In the Brecon-district by-election in Wales on Thursday, Conservative Chris Davies tried to hold on to his seat, but was beaten by Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Dodds.

What makes this doubly interesting is that the Liberal Democrats have emerged as the most potent voice in British politics for stopping Brexit and have increased their clout by forging a “Remain Alliance.”

In the election in Wales, the Liberal Democrats teamed up with other anti-Brexit parties, including the Greens and Wales’s Plaid Cymru, which both agreed not to put forward candidates, to increase the Liberal Democrat candidate’s chances.

“Boris Johnson’s shrinking majority makes it clear that he has no mandate to crash us out of the E.U.,” the Liberal Democrats’ new leader, Jo Swinson, said Friday. She added that she envisioned the Remain Alliance growing to fight Johnson’s Brexit plans.

“The country doesn’t have to settle for Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn,” she told BBC Radio, referring to the opposition Labour Party leader, who can’t seem to make up his mind on whether Labour supports leaving or remaining in the E.U.

Dodd, the winner in Wales, said the Liberal Democrats “are the party that want to stay as part of the United Kingdom. We want to stay in Europe. We see that as healthy for our communities. We have to stay in Europe, and we have to stay in this bigger team.”

Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian politician and a leader for the European Parliament’s Brexit talks, tweeted his congratulations to the Liberal Democrats, asserting that “the party goes from strength to strength & it really could change everything.”

The Liberal Democrats took 13,826 votes and the Conservative Party garnered 12,401, a margin of 1,425 that overturned the Tories’ previous majority of more than 8,000.

The voting district backed leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Johnson was jeered this week as he visited Wales. The new prime minister met with chicken farmers and sheepherders who are worried that if Britain crashes out of Europe without new customs and trade arrangements, their roasters and lamb chops could immediately face high tariffs in Europe that would make their meats far less competitive.

“October, November and December are peak times to sell Welsh lamb,” Dodd said Friday. “There are two issues for farmers — firstly, how are they going to cope with 40 percent tariffs on their lamb exports. The second is mental health. Farming is the profession with the highest suicide rate. These are real concerns.”

Witching hour (October 31st) approaches.