Tell the public the truth about anti-Tory pact, says Sajid Javid

Tell the public the truth about anti-Tory pact, says Sajid Javid after apparent Lib-Lab alliance deals Boris Johnson a double by-election blow

  • Sajid Javid issued the challenge after tactical voting on an ‘industrial scale’
  • Senior Conservatives said opposition parties needed to be honest with voters
  • Two parties did little campaigning in the constituency they were not targeting
  • Labour and the Liberal Democrats must ‘come clean’ over whether they have an electoral pact, a Cabinet minister said last night.

    Sajid Javid issued the challenge after tactical voting on an ‘industrial scale’ handed the Government a double by-election defeat.

    Senior Conservatives said opposition parties needed to be honest with voters after the Lib Dems snatched Tiverton and Honiton and Labour retook Wakefield.

    The two parties did little campaigning in the constituency they were not targeting – and both did so badly they lost their deposits there. Tory co-chairman Oliver Dowden resigned yesterday morning, saying someone had to ‘take responsibility’.

    But Health Secretary Mr Javid said: ‘Keir Starmer and the Lib Dems must come clean to the public about any electoral pact.

    ‘A Starmer-led government propped up by the Lib Dems and SNP would break up our Union, and take our economy backward when we can least afford it. We must not allow that to happen which is why we need to unite and drive forward our agenda to deliver for the British people.’

    Sajid Javid issued the challenge after tactical voting on an ¿industrial scale¿ handed the Government a double by-election defeat

    Sajid Javid issued the challenge after tactical voting on an ‘industrial scale’ handed the Government a double by-election defeat

    Attorney general Suella Braverman told the BBC: ‘It’s disappointing to see that there’s a dishonest electoral pact between the Lib Dems and Labour.’

    Her warning came as:

    • Cabinet colleagues warned Boris Johnson he must start delivering if he is to get the party out of its slump; 
    • His supporters and opponents geared up for a battle over changing the Tory party’s rules to allow another confidence vote in his leadership; 
    • Mr Dowden used his resignation letter to say that Conservative supporters were ‘distressed and disappointed’ – but pointedly failed to back the PM;  
    • Experts warned Sir Keir that Labour was not on track to win an outright majority at the next election; 
    • Former Tory leader William Hague urged Cabinet members to consider resigning and warned the party was ‘potentially heading for a disaster’; 
    • Fellow ex-leader Michael Howard called on Mr Johnson to step down for the good of the party.

    Last month The Mail on Sunday revealed suspicions from Mr Dowden that Sir Keir was standing down candidates in areas where Lib Dem support was strong to avoid splitting the anti-Tory vote.

    He said Sir Ed Davey’s party had returned the favour where Labour was dominant. The claims were dismissed by both Labour and the Lib Dems.

    Senior Conservatives said opposition parties needed to be honest with voters after the Lib Dems snatched Tiverton and Honiton and Labour retook Wakefield

    Senior Conservatives said opposition parties needed to be honest with voters after the Lib Dems snatched Tiverton and Honiton and Labour retook Wakefield

    Luke Hall, a deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said: ‘It’s clear that Labour and the Liberal Democrats have entered into a secret and dishonest electoral pact, trying to help each other with tactical voting rather than running on their own records.

    ‘This raises the prospect of a damaging coalition of chaos, with a weak Keir Starmer being propped up by the SNP and Lib Dems. They should come clean on their grubby backroom deals.’

    Matt Singh, from the Number Cruncher consultancy, said the results in Tiverton and Wakefield amounted to ‘industrial-scale tactical voting’.

    The results, which were also blamed on voters staying at home, led to a day of Conservative recriminations.

    Following an early-morning phone call with the PM, Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted he would stay on, tweeting: ‘We all take responsibility for the results and I’m determined to continue working to tackle the cost of living.’

    But observers noticed that his statement included no mention of Mr Johnson.

    The Prime Minister, in Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit, vowed to carry on, saying: ‘No doubt people will continue to beat me up and say this or that and to attack me. That’s fine, that’s quite right, that is the job of politicians.

    The Prime Minister, in Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit, vowed to carry on, saying: ¿No doubt people will continue to beat me up and say this or that and to attack me'

    The Prime Minister, in Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit, vowed to carry on, saying: ‘No doubt people will continue to beat me up and say this or that and to attack me’

    ‘In the end voters, journalists, they have no one else to make their complaints to. I have to take that. But I also have to get on with the job of delivering for the people of this country and that’s what I was elected to do.’

    But asked whether he had considered resigning at any point yesterday, Mr Johnson dodged the question.

    Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and former Brexit minister Lord Frost urged Mr Johnson to redouble his efforts to deliver policies that will tackle the cost of living crisis.

    In his resignation letter, Mr Dowden said: ‘We cannot carry on with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that, in these circumstances, it would not be right for me to remain in office.’

    A Cabinet source said he did not expect further major resignations. ‘My instinct is the Cabinet are sanguine about this result,’ the source said. ‘Rather than focusing on the leader, the focus needs to be on making sure we press ahead with our agenda.’

    Tactical voting is suspected in Tiverton and Honiton because the Lib Dems won the seat despite having only come third in 2019.

    They surged from 14.8 per cent of the vote in the general election to 52.9 per cent of the vote on Thursday.

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer meets with new Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood as the party reclaimed the West Yorkshire seat from the Conservatives in the Wakefield by-election

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer meets with new Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood as the party reclaimed the West Yorkshire seat from the Conservatives in the Wakefield by-election

    Labour meanwhile slumped from 19.5 per cent of the vote to just 3.7 per cent, indicating that people were switching tactically.

    In Wakefield, Labour saw its vote share rise from 39.8 per cent in 2019 to 47.9 per cent on Thursday. The Lib Dems on the other hand saw their vote slump from 3.9 per cent to 1.8 per cent.

    Naomi Smith, chief executive of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign group, which is campaigning for an electoral pact between the two parties, said the majorities ‘could not have been overturned without tactical voting and an unofficial electoral pact’.

    Urging Sir Keir and Sir Ed to make an official pact, she added: ‘Labour and the Lib Dems mustn’t rest on their laurels, repeating this success will be much more difficult in a general election.

    ‘Our polling proves they will need to collaborate to defeat the Government.’

    But Labour frontbencher Lisa Nandy denied any deal, saying: ‘We didn’t have an electoral pact in this election, nor would we. People vote with their feet.’

    Sir Ed added: ‘I am being honest – there is no pact, there is no deal, but the Liberal Democrats are fighting in areas we believe we can win.’

    Rebels plotting to force another confidence vote

    By Daniel Martin Policy Editor

    Supporters and opponents of Boris Johnson are gearing up for a battle over changing the Conservative Party’s rules to allow another confidence vote in the Prime Minister.

    Rebel MPs yesterday threatened to bring forward a fresh leadership challenge in the wake of Thursday’s by-election losses.

    Senior backbencher Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he would discuss with colleagues whether they should rewrite the rules so a second confidence vote could be held early.

    Earlier this month, 148 Conservative MPs – more than 40 per cent of them – voted to say they did not have confidence in the PM. Under the rules of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Mr Johnson should be safe from another challenge for the next 12 months.

    But Andrew Bridgen said he would stand in elections to the committee next month on a manifesto of allowing another no-confidence vote now.

    Tory whips vowed to block such a move by getting pro-Johnson MPs elected to the committee’s executive.

    Speaking in Rwanda, where he is at a Commonwealth summit, Mr Johnson said he was not worried that Tory MPs would spend the next week plotting to get rid of him while he was away.

    Sir Geoffrey, the treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said the Conservatives had ‘some difficult decisions to make, no doubt’ on how to move forward. The MP for the Cotswolds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that colleagues would in the coming days decide whether to try to oust the PM.

    Sir Geoffrey, who voted against Mr Johnson in the confidence vote, said the PM would set out to Cabinet members and MPs how he was going to respond to the two by-election defeats and to the cost of living squeeze.

    Sir Geoffrey later told Times Radio the executive of the 1922 Committee might decide on a change to the rules but this was ‘quite difficult’. Alternatively the Cabinet could turn on Mr Johnson and ask him to step down, he said.

    Mr Bridgen said: ‘I’m going to put my hat in the ring on a manifesto of rule change and clearly if a majority of the committee are elected on that mindset then the rules can be changed.’

    Former minister Steve Baker, a leading critic of Mr Johnson, is also expected to stand. He said: ‘Like so many backbench MPs, I am looking to the Cabinet for leadership, especially from those who aspire to be seen to provide it.’

    There are 18 Conservative MPs in senior roles on the 1922 Committee and they can change the rules.

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