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- Boris Johnson’s majority in parliament has been cut to just one after losing the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election on Friday.
- The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats won the seat, with help from an alliance of Remain parties.
- The new prime minister’s grip on power is already on the brink of collapsing.
- Here are 5 big takeaways from the result in Wales.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s majority in parliament has been slashed to just one seat after the Liberal Democrats won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in Wales on Friday.
Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds overturned a majority of over 8,000 votes to beat sitting Conservative MP Chris Davies, who had triggered the by-election after being convicted for filing a false expense claim in March.
Here are five things we learned from the result in Brecon and Radnorshire.
The Conservatives are on the brink of losing their majority
The Conservatives have seen their majority fall away since Theresa May’s disastrous decision to call a general election in 2017. As well as the party’s loss in Brecon and Radnorshire, they have had three MPs defect to other parties, and another charged with sexual assault.
It means Johnson’s majority in parliament hangs by a thread — although Charlie Elphicke, the MP charged with sexual assault, is still likely to continue voting for the government.
A government needs a majority: It is the means by which legislation is passed. Ideally, a government needs a comfortable majority which prevents a handful of rebels from being able to block the passage of legislation — something May found out the hard way when the House of Commons repeatedly rejected her Brexit deal.
And Johnson is going to need to pass legislation to push through Brexit whether he leaves with a deal or not.
That’s why many MPs believe the country is inevitably heading for a general election later this year. The question is whether Johnson calls one — in which case two-thirds of all MPs would need to approve it — or whether it is forced upon him by rebels bringing down his government in a no-confidence vote, in order to stop a no-deal Brexit.
But the result was not a a total disaster for Johnson
The Conservative Party lost a by-election just 11 days after a new prime minister took office. The result means Johnson lost a by-election as prime minister faster than British prime minister since Herbert Henry Asquith in 1908.
But it was not the disastrous night for the new prime minister that some have described: The Conservatives lost by just 1,425 votes in a seat where the odds were stacked heavily against it.
The Lib Dems held the seat until 2015, and went into the contest helped by the Conservative party’s strange decision to put itself at a disadvantage by standing a candidate who had been caught up in an expenses scandal.
The Liberal Democrats might have expected to win more comfortably.
Johnson will be aware that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which received 10.3% of the vote, cost his party the seat. It is a serious issue that the party will have to contend with if there is a snap general election, as widely expected.
But Conservatives might see the Brexit Party’s relatively weak performance as a positive, given that it was polling nationally at as much as 34% earlier this year, and smashed the Conservatives in the European Parliament elections.
Johnson’s renewed focus and repeated commitments to taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal, are stealing political space and oxygen from the Brexit Party, and will continue to do so as the country heads to what feels like an inevitable general election.
The Liberal Democrats are a big threat to the Conservatives
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The Conservative party spends a lot of its time panicking about the threat of the Brexit Party.
One of the reasons Prime Minister Johnson has taken such a hardline approach on the UK’s exit from the EU is that it can help keep the support of Leave voters, and stop them going to Farage’s Brexit Party in their droves.
But in dozens of Conservative-held seats across the country, the Lib Dems are quickly making up ground on the Tories, and have a strong chance of winning these seats at the next general election.
The majority of Lib Dem target seats are currently held by Conservatives.
By embracing its hard-Brexit voter base, the Conservative party risks alienating hundreds of thousands of self-identifying moderate, pro-EU Conservative voters, who backed the party when it was led by David Cameron.
Brecon and Radnorshire — a Leave-voting seat in south Wales — is not part of this "Blue Wall" of liberal Conservatives that Cameron built up in areas like the southwest of England, in order to form a majority government.
But it is likely to be the first of many constituencies that the Conservatives surrender to the Liberal Democrats.
Labour had another poor night
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The Labour Party had a disastrous night, picking up just 5.3% of the vote.
So bad was its performance that the party at one point looked like it would lose its £500 deposit to run in the election, which is required if a candidate gets less than 5% of votes cast.
The Labour leadership will be feeling the heat and wondering how much better it would have fared if it had a clearer position on Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn and his aides have declined to turn the Labour into an explicitly pro-Remain party because they fear losing the constituency of Brexit supporters who have voted Labour in the past.
But the Brecon result — like the recent local and European Parliament elections — shows that Labour’s current strategy appears to be alienating both Leave and Remain voters.
Labour is inching towards an explicitly pro-Remain position and could adopt one at its conference in autumn. The question is whether Remain voters who have deserted the party can be convinced to return.
Anti-Brexit alliances can be a winning formula
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A total of three anti-Brexit parties — Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, and Reform — stood aside in Brecon and Radnorshire to give the Liberal Democrats the best chance of winning the seat. The so-called Remain alliance could have been the deciding factor in seat which the Liberal Democrats only won by 1,425. Plaid Cymru received 3% of the vote in 2017. The Green Party did not stand in 2017 but received 3% of the vote in 2015.
Heidi Allen, an independent MP for South Cambridgeshire, is leading efforts to ensure as many pro-Remain MPs as possible are returned to parliament at the next election, through a campaign called "Unite to Remain."
Her team has identified up to 200 seats where a "Remain alliance" could be effective.
Allen on Friday praised pro-Remain parties for the decisions that helped Jane Dodds win the Brecon by-election.
She said: "People in the European elections were disappointed that the Remain parties didn’t have time to get their acts together – but the incredible way in which these parties have acted to ensure victory in Brecon shows what can be achieved.
"Given the high likelihood of a General Election soon, we will now begin urgent preparations to maximise our chance of returning to Parliament as many Remain-supporting MPs as possible."
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