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When Theresa May became the Prime Minister, she was fortunate enough to have come into a majority even if it was a slim one. She had inherited a tumultuous Britain from David Cameron but displayed an air of tough resolve on major national issues, most notably Brexit. After calling a general election to strengthen her majority and ultimately losing it, she was forced to make do with a working majority of 13 with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Over time, that somewhat healthy number has been worn down by by-elections and defections from the party. In a special election yesterday in the Brecon and Radnorshire region of Wales where Liberal Democratic Candidate Jane Dodds substantially beat out Conservative candidate Chris Davies who previously held the seat, the conservatives saw a sharp decline of 10% in the share of votes they received from the region.
The by-election occurred as a result of Davies, the previous MP from the region, was convicted of a false expense claim.
This loss reduces the Johnson government’s working majority to a precarious one. Dodds said that the people of the constituency had once again “chosen hope over fear” and that this crucial victory sent a “strong message to Westminster.”
Jane Dodds: "My very first act as your MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Boris Johnson, wherever he's hiding and tell him loud and clear: stop playing with the future of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit now."https://t.co/t9knBQ3yMA
— euronews (@euronews) August 2, 2019
Dodds won with 13,826 votes, with Davies far behind by 1,425 votes. The Labour Party also performed poorly with a meager 1,680 votes, which constitutes just 5.3% of voters.
The by-election occurred as a result of Davies, the previous MP from the region, was convicted of a false expense claim. More than 10,000 citizens signed a petition removing him from the seat.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's parliamentary majority has been reduced to a single vote.
His governing Conservative Party lost a special election just as it faces a tough fight over Brexit. https://t.co/pp3Kvxdt51
— NPR (@NPR) August 2, 2019
The minuscule majority that now sustains this minority government is even more dangerous as Westminster is more deeply polarized now than it has been in recent memory. Johnson has declared a firm commitment to leaving the EU by 31st October in a “do or die” promise. This includes the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit.
When Theresa May became the Prime Minister, she was fortunate enough to have come into a majority even if it was a slim one.
The worrying thing about this resolve, even if Johnson does manage to execute in three months what May could not achieve in three years, is that the only aspect of Brexit parliament ever unanimously agreed on was the repudiation of a no-deal scenario which Jonson would now be flouting. Seeing as MPs in the past deserted the party and slimmed May’s working majority further because of her hard stance on Brexit, an attempt at a no-deal exit could be disastrous.
While the Prime Minister technically does not need the approval of parliament to exit the EU, it would be in violation of typical convention for the executive to ignore a resolution by the legislature. Considering how polarized the parliament and the country already are on the matter of Brexit, it would be an unwise avenue for Johnson to pursue. His working majority is already slim and calls for a second referendum to strengthen the “Brexit mandate” are regularly echoing through parliament and civil society.
One way to legitimize Johnson’s move towards a hard Brexit would be to call for an election just like May did and to try and make sure it does not backfire the way her attempt did. Johnson is a popular and charismatic leader and may hope to pull off a victory but seeing the tide of public opinion turning against a hard exit that was promised may caution Johnson as to the wisdom of such an election.
Johnson was not a stranger to controversy before he became PM
Johnson is no stranger to controversy or explosive British tabloids, which speculate on everything from his private life to his oft-absurd public statements. He recently tried to explain his comments that Muslim women who wore burqas looked like letterboxes, but the weak attempt at justification was largely met by anger and vilification by the press.
When he was in the race to become PM last month, accusations of domestic abuse were hurled his way by neighbors who lived right next to his girlfriend’s home as they reported the sounds of a rough altercation and screaming.
Johnson’s stance of maintaining privacy in these matters meant an insubstantial response from him and excessive speculation by the media. His girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, has now reportedly moved into 10 Downing street to live alongside the premier who is tasked with the unreal challenge of steering Britain through Brexit.