Blow for PM as former social worker wins Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

Boris Johnson has been dealt a significant blow after the Conservatives lost the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to leave the new Prime Minister with a working majority of just one.

The Liberal Democrats won the mid-Wales constituency by a margin of 1,425, swinging the vote nearly 12% from the Tories.

Mr Johnson’s first major challenge as Tory leader became his first major defeat with the announcement of Jane Dodds’ victory in the early hours of Friday.

The Tory loss will add to the PM’s challenges to steer Brexit through Parliament and may increase the chances of a snap general election.

With the vote coming eight days after Mr Johnson was anointed, it is the quickest by-election defeat for any PM of the post-War period.

Welsh Lib Dems leader Ms Dodds immediately challenged Mr Johnson to rule out a no-deal Brexit as she celebrated her victory.

“People are desperately crying out for a different kind of politics. There is no time for tribalism when our country is faced with a Boris Johnson Government and the threat of a no-deal Brexit,” she said.

“So my very first act as your MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson wherever he is hiding and tell him loud and clear: ‘Stop playing with the future of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit now’.”

She pushed into second place the Conservative candidate Chris Davies, who was the constituency’s MP until he was ousted in a recall petition after he admitted submitting false invoices for expenses.

Despite 19% of the electorate petitioning for his recall, the Tories selected Mr Davies to fight to reclaim the seat.

The Lib Dems secured 43% of the vote, the Tories 39% and the Brexit Party 10%.

Fourth-placed Labour narrowly avoided losing its deposit by securing just over 5% of the share.

Newly-elected Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: “Boris Johnson’s shrinking majority makes it clear that he has no mandate to crash us out of the EU.”

The vote may also be seen as an early victory for the “Remain alliance” of anti-Brexit parties, with Plaid Cymru and the Greens agreeing not to field candidates in order not to split the pro-EU vote.

Ms Dodds thanked those two parties for their “courageous decision”.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the “spirit of co-operation” between the pro-Remain parties had led to Ms Dodds’s election, as he called for a second referendum.

“But if the prime minister is intent on a general election, he should know that Plaid Cymru and the other pro-Remain parties are committed to cooperating so that we beat Brexit once and for all,” he added.

Mr Davies won the seat from the Lib Dems in 2015 and secured a majority of 8,038 in the 2017 general election.

But this was overhauled with a swing to the Lib Dems of 11.96%.

The loss leaves the PM with the support of 319 MPs, including the DUP which props up his majority, while opposition parties now have 318.

Mr Davies’ recall came after he pleaded guilty in March to submitting two false expenses invoices for nine photographs costing £700 to decorate his new office.

He was fined £1,500, ordered to pay £2,500 towards legal costs and told to carry out 50 hours of community service.

In his losing speech, Mr Davies thanked his team and family “who have had a difficult time over the last few months”.

New MP Jane Dodds: Former child protection social worker profiled

Jane Dodds has delivered the first major defeat of Boris Johnson’s premiership in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat leader’s victory in the mid-Wales constituency cut the new Prime Minister’s working majority to just one.

A name unfamiliar to those outside Welsh politics, the 55-year-old is a qualified child protection social worker who was elected Welsh party leader two years ago.

Born and raised in a Welsh-speaking family in Wrexham, the Cardiff University graduate lives in Powys with her husband Patrick.

She said her parents “taught me the value of public service from the day I was born”, and added that she was “passionate about tackling injustice”.

Her victory came after she ran on a platform of “opposing Conservative cuts, protecting vital rural services, and standing up for Welsh farmers and local jobs”.

As the Lib Dem candidate for Montgomeryshire in the 2015 and 2017 general elections, she twice lost to Conservative Glyn Davies.

Between 2006 and 2010, Ms Dodds served as a councillor in the North Richmond ward of Richmond upon Thames in London.

Referring to her parents and upbringing on her website, Ms Dodds said: “They drove me to work hard and get the best education I could. I graduated from Cardiff University then trained to become a social worker.

“For the last 27 years, I’ve been working to protect vulnerable children at home and abroad.

“Now I’m running to be Brecon and Radnorshire’s new MP because I believe we deserve better from our politicians and the Westminster Government.

“I want to stand up for everyone in our community that feels let down by those in power.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Ben Birchall / PA Wire.

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