Boris Johnson has admitted responsibility for his party’s heavy defeat in the North Shropshire byelection, but he has also criticised the media for focussing on “politics and politicians” in the aftermath of a series of claims of Tory corruption and violations of security rules.
The prime minister said he understood “why people were and are unhappy” in North Shropshire, where the Lib Dems won the seat by 6,000 votes, overturning a big Conservative majority.
“Clearly, the vote in North Shropshire is a very disappointing outcome,” he told broadcasters while wearing a mask on air. I completely understand people’s dissatisfaction. I’m listening to what the people of North Shropshire are saying. In all humility, I must accept that decision.
“I recognize that what people expect us to do as a government is to focus on them and their issues at all times.”
However, Johnson went on to say that the main issue in recent weeks has been “a litany of stuff about politics and politicians and stuff that isn’t about them and things we can do to make life better.”
He appeared to blame the media for concentrating too heavily on the controversies over how a Tory contributor bought his wallpaper in Downing Street and the claims of parties in Downing Street during lockdown, brushing aside queries about his personal involvement for the disasters.
“With all humility and respect, those questions are exactly the kind of questions about politics, politicians, the running of government – which I’m going to have to fix of course – but the real issues people want to focus on is NHS – investment we’re putting in – and what we’re doing to combat pandemic,” Johnson said when asked what needed to change. The government’s top objective is to achieve this.”
When asked about the Tory MPs who have warned him that until he gets a hold on No 10, he would be ousted as leader, Johnson declined to comment, claiming that it was a question about politics and politicians.
“Can I just go through what I’ve said so far in this interview?” “That is the type of inquiry that violates the golden rule,” he explained. “We’re concentrating on finishing the task.” We’re concentrating on ensuring that we not only have the fastest vaccination and booster rollouts, as we have previously done, but that we are also able to prevent the most dire Omicron effects through the Get Boosted Now campaign.
“That’s what the government is going to do now, and that’s what I’m focused on, and I think that’s what people want me to focus on.”
Following the vote, several Conservative MPs have warned Johnson that he is on his last chance, with the 1922 Committee enabling no-confidence letters to be emailed to it during the Christmas holidays.
He faced the worst revolt of his leadership earlier this week, when 100 MPs voted against his plan B of Covid limits to cope with Omicron, forcing him to rely on Labour votes to get the measures passed.
Sir Roger Gale, a long-serving Conservative backbencher, suggested the prime minister was on borrowed time.
“I believe this should be viewed as a referendum on the prime minister’s performance, and I believe the prime minister is now on his final orders,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “There have already been two strikes: one earlier this week in the Commons vote, and now this. He’ll be out if he gets another strike.”