Helen Morgan, a Liberal Democrat, defeated a Conservative majority of nearly 23,000 votes in Thursday's election to win the contest in North Shropshire. This rural area is northwest England's oldest constituency and has been represented by a Conservative almost continuously from 1832. After a scandal involving corruption, the ex-Conservative member of Parliament had to resign.
Johnson will feel the pressure of this result, just two years after being reelected with an unassailable majority of 80 seats in Parliament. Recent allegations against Johnson have eroded his authority. They include allegations that he attended Christmas parties with his staff last year during the lockdown. These allegations are part of efforts to protect an ally from illegal lobbying allegations and allegations that he received improper donations to pay for the extravagant refurbishment of his official residence.
Supporters and opponents of Johnson are questioning Johnson’s handling the pandemic. This is after coronavirus infections rose to records this week, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant swept through Britain.
Morgan declared in her victory speech, "Tonight the peoples of North Shropshire spoke on behalf of British people." They said loudly, clearly: 'Boris Johnson! The party is over. Your government, built on lies and bluster will be held responsible. It will be examined, challenged and held accountable.
Thursday's defeat is the second in a row for the Conservatives in this year's by-elections. In June, Sarah Green, a Liberal Democrat, won a by election in Chesham & Amersham. This constituency is northwest of London, which has long been a Conservative stronghold.
Johnson was elected prime minister in just 2 1/2 years. He rode his support for Brexit, and his well-curated image of a humble but likeable politician.
Five months after Parliament rejected his withdrawal agreement with the European Union, he called a snap election to consolidate his position. The Conservatives won 365 seats, 80 more than any other party combined.
However, Brexit is not the main issue in British politics.
Many voters are disillusioned after two years of a pandemic which claimed more than 145,000 people and triggered a series lockdowns that battered the economy.
Johnson's missteps and scandals make him look like someone who is out of control. This contrasts with his preferred image as a somewhat disorganized leader who can't even comb his hair because he's too busy.
After trying to amend parliamentary rules in order to avoid censure of Conservative lawmaker Own Paterson, who lobbyized government agencies for companies he worked for, he was forced to apologise last month. Paterson eventually resigned and was elected in North Shropshire.
Johnson has been the subject of a number of news reports since then, alleging that he attended Christmas parties with his staff last November and December during COVID-19 restrictions which prevented anyone else from visiting their friends or comforting those who were dying in hospital.
Johnson initially refused to talk, claiming that there were no parties or that rules had been violated. Johnson demanded an investigation after a video was released in which staff members seemed to laugh at the violations.
Johnson's party members are tired of Johnson.
Roger Gale, a Conservative lawmaker from 1983, stated that the North Shropshire result was an indication of dissatisfaction with Johnson's government running.
Gale stated to the BBC that he believes this should be viewed as a referendum on performance of the prime minister. Gale said that he believed the prime minister was now in the last orders. Gale said that he has already had "two strikes." He had one earlier in the week, and this is his second. He's out with one more strike.
Charles Walker, another Conservative MP, stated that the result was more about people's anger and fatigue after two years of the pandemic.
Walker acknowledged that there have been mistakes, but he stressed that it's not unusual for the ruling party to lose by-elections.
He told BBC that every time there is a result such as this, people claim it's seismic. "I don’t think we can put too much stock into this.