Oliver Dowden jumped, maybe before being pushed – but will others follow? | Political news




Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden resigned this morning saying ‘someone has to take responsibility’.

Yet it is far from clear that blame for both defeats overnight in two very different electoral contexts could never be kicked out of the mild-mannered Mr. Dowden.

Tiverton voters were not demanding his head as a prize to avoid the Liberal Democrats.

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Labor would have won Wakefield if someone else had held that position.

So why did he leave?

Mr. Dowden has been on the front lines across the country, perhaps more than any other cabinet minister.

Although his letter was scrupulously polite, the implication is that no one took full responsibility.

The person whose name appears on the doorstep more than any other – as new Tiverton MP Richard Foord made clear in his speech – is Boris Johnson.

It’s hard not to see Mr Dowden pointing the finger at the Prime Minister and duly leaving the stage, even though he stopped short of drawing his dagger.

Mr Dowden is increasingly seen as a Boris Johnson skeptic and the veteran backroom fixer turned Cabinet minister has seen enough ups and downs in the Conservative Party to know what the real warning signs look like .

Having been one of the first figures to endorse Mr Johnson for the leadership, he gave the impression of falling in love with him.

There are signs that it has been mutual.

Less than a month ago, newspaper reports surfaced suggesting Mr Dowden could be demoted over failures in previous by-elections and handed a more junior government post.

In this case, he decided to jump, perhaps before being pushed.

The big question is whether there will be more.

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This is a firm sometimes mocked for how it’s made to defend all sorts of escapades, indiscretions and entanglements with little sign that each has obvious limits to what they’ll endure in the face of the interviewers.

Loyalty in the toughest situations is rewarded above other traits, so it’s no surprise there isn’t the same list of people ready to jump ship that you might have compiled when Theresa May was prime minister.

So, while it’s not impossible, it’s unclear who would be next and when they would act.

Even though Tory MPs tell themselves they expected the double defeat in the by-election, the scale of the defeat at Tiverton should prompt serious reflection.

This means that no Conservative seat can be called safe.

The scale of the anti-Tory tactical vote that meant Labor lost its deposit in Tiverton is another flashing red warning indicator.

And now the departure of Mr. Dowdenwho until recently was considered the loyalist of loyalists, is another sign of change.

It is not clear that there is a widespread appetite for sudden change given that the issue has been so much debated in recent weeks and months.

However, gradually all bad news is poison dripping in the blood of conservatives.

The effects of this will take time to manifest.


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