'If you're going to challenge Boris, do it now': Marr reacts to double by-election wipeout

24 June 2022, 14:51 | Updated: 24 June 2022, 16:23

By Sophie Barnett

Those who want to challenge the "albino gorilla" Boris Johnson should do it now, after the PM's "stinging" by-election wipeout, Andrew Marr has said.

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Speaking with fellow LBC presenter Shelagh Fogarty, Andrew said it was a "stinging and pretty pulverising rebuke" for Boris Johnson after the huge by-election defeats in Tiverton and Wakefield.

"If you're going to challenge the beast Boris, do it now," Andrew Marr said.

"I would've thought anybody who wants to be the next Conservative leader and isn't coming out now is being too cautious.

"Yet again, if not now, when?

"The biggest beast who wants the job most, tends to get it or keep it," Andrew told Shelagh.

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"And at the moment that biggest beast seems to be Boris Johnson.

"I've called him the albino gorilla - he kind of squats all over the Cabinet table and nobody else looks anything like big enough to take him on.

"In key moments in our political history it's about courage, it's about self-belief, it's about taking on the big guns, and nobody is at the moment."

Andrew also told Shelagh the win for the Labour party will do a lot for Sir Keir Starmer's image.

Andrew's comments come after party chairman Oliver Dowden walked out saying he shared the "distress" of activists about the run of bad results and in what appeared to be a coded attack on the PM, saying the party cannot continue with "business as usual".

Mr Johnson pledged to "listen" after the huge by-election defeats in Tiverton and Wakefield, but also attempted to play down the huge blows as a difficult "patch" for the government.

And it emerged he went swimming in his Kigali hotel after hearing of the results although sources said he was "blindsided" by Oliver Dowden's resignation.

No government has failed to defend two by-election seats on the same day since 1991, when John Major was PM.

Despite the pressure Mr Johnson earlier vowed to continue as Prime Minister, although he conceded the election results were "tough".

"It's absolutely true we've had some tough by-election results, they've been, I think, a reflection of a lot of things, but we've got to recognise voters are going through a tough time at the moment," he told broadcasters in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

think, as a Government, I've got to listen to what people are saying, in particular to the difficulties people are facing over the cost of living, which, I think, for most people is the number one issue.

"We're now facing pressures on the cost of living, we're seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs - that's hitting people.

"We've got to recognise there is more we've got to do and we certainly will, we will keep going, addressing the concerns of people until we get through this patch."

Ballots were cast in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton on Thursday after contests triggered by Conservative MPs resigning in disgrace.

Wakefield - whose previous MP Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed in May for sexually assaulting a teenager - has gone to Labour.

Meanwhile Tiverton and Honiton, whose previous MP resigned after admitting watching porn in the Commons, went to the Liberal Democrats.

In Wakefield, new Labour MP Simon Lightwood received 47 per cent of the vote, 17 per cent ahead of the Conservative candidate.

The new Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton - a constituency that has been Conservative since its creation in 1977 - won 52 per cent of the vote.

Richard Foord was 14 per cent ahead of the Conservative candidate.