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Adam Boulton: Double by-election defeat leaves Tories asking is this a re-run of 1992 or 1997? | Politics News

Voters in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire have just given a resounding answer to the question obsessing Westminster watchers all year:

“Does the run-in to the next general election feel more like the approach to the 1992 or the 1997 election?”.

This is really the political nerds’ version of the basic question of interest to most of us:

“Is there going to be a change of government?” or, more bluntly still, “Are the Conservatives going to lose?”.

More on the 1992 false dawn for Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party later in this article.

Politics live: Leaked WhatsApp messages reveal Tory dismay

First look at the developing similarities in the parliamentary by-election records from 2019 to the present day and 1992-1997, when John Major’s full term ended with the Labour landslide led by Tony Blair.

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Is Starmer on the path to Downing Street?

A lot of the comparisons are statistical. There is also a mirror image similarity in that both eras witnessed a collapse in both the morale and the morals of the ruling Conservative Party.

Among other issues, this can be seen in the quality of the candidates they are putting forward today.

It is of course the luck of the draw which seats fall vacant between elections.

But as the number of by-elections mounts over a typical four or five-year parliamentary term, a comparable list typically emerges.

Ghosts of elections passed

For example, by a quirk of fate, the last by-election in the Tamworth constituency was in December 1995.

Labour captured South-East Staffordshire, as it was then named, with a swing from the Conservatives of 22.1%.

On Thursday night Labour gained Tamworth with a record swing of 23.9%.

Tamworth and Mid Beds were the eighteenth and nineteenth by-elections this parliament. Of those 10 seats changed hands between parties.

The Conservatives lost eight of them, four to Labour and four to the Liberal Democrats.

Labour also won Rutherglen and Hamilton from the SNP earlier this month and the Conservatives took the “classic red wall” constituency of Hartlepool off Labour at the height of Boris Johnson’s premiership in early 2021.

A lot has changed since then.

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Labour ‘can see the summit’ after by-election wins

There were seventeen by-elections in Great Britain in the 1992-1997 parliament, eight won by another party.

The Conservatives lost all of these, four to the Liberal Democrats, three to Labour, including SE Staffs, and one, Perth and Kinross, to the SNP.

Labour, the main opposition party, seems to be doing better in this cycle than it did a generation ago, in spite of the popularity of the leader then, Tony Blair, far exceeding the ratings of Sir Keir Starmer today.

Back then the Liberal Democrats won more seats than Labour. This time they are behind 5-4, having lost their challenge to Labour in the three-way Mid Beds battlefield, which they claimed was ideal Lib Dem by-election territory.

The Lib Dems were also down to 1.6% in Tamworth, losing their deposit. In the aftermath on Friday morning Daisy Cooper, the ambitious Lib Dem deputy leader, claimed that her party had served Labour by winning over some Conservative voters.

Labour campaigners don’t see it that way.

Read more:
Tory party chair won’t resign despite by-election losses
Sunak puts by-election disasters down to mid-term blues
Starmer cannot afford to be ‘boring’

In the ’92 parliament, four seats changed hands on swings of 20% or more – two Lib Dem and two Labour.

Labour have clocked up three victories on that scale since July.

The by-election results last week suggest that the voters are worried about the cost of living crisis and poor standards of government.

Most seem to have put Brexit to one side. Tamworth, like most of the Midlands, voted heavily to leave the EU.

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‘Looking at exceptional swings’

The Conservatives will also be worried that the Reform Party drained off 3.7% of the votes in Tamworth and 5.4% in Mid Beds.

In each case Reform’s total was bigger than Labour’s new majority.

One option for the Tories would be to try to woo them by shifting to the right.

Unlike the run-up to ’97, when the SNP was stirring, Labour’s support appears to be recovering in Scotland.

This is one of the three reasons why Peter Kellner, the habitually cautious political analyst and founder of YouGov, now anticipates a Labour majority government.

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Labour wins Tamworth: ‘It’s time for change’

His other pointers are Rishi Sunak’s declining ratings and evidence of anti-Tory tactical voting.

Kellner also concludes that Keir Starmer has overcome the Labour “fear factor”.

YouGov’s data shows that “he has persuaded seven million Tories (out of the 14 million last time) that they have nothing to fear from a Labour government”.

Back to basics – back again?

This is very different from the run-up to 1992, when Conservatives and their allies in the media successfully targeted Labour leader Neil Kinnock and the tax rises proposed in the shadow budget.

After taking over from Margaret Thatcher, John Major won the 1992 election. A few months later on Black Wednesday, 16 September 1982, his government’s economic credibility collapsed.

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Defeated Tory candidate walks out

The Conservatives’ popularity plunged and never recovered. People had been threatened with dramatic increases in the cost of their mortgages.

Meanwhile senior Tories were caught up in a succession of so-called “sleaze’ allegations, some more serious than others, of sexual or financial impropriety.

Following an ill-judged party conference speech by Prime Minister Major theses came to be known under the headline “back to basics”.

Ministers and senior MPs implicated in scandals included David Mellor, Michael Mates, Tim Yeo, Alan Duncan, Michael Brown, Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken.

Since Boris Johnson won his “stonking” general election victory in 2019, the public has been hit by two shocks – one sleazy and one economic.

Both resulted in sustained drops in the Conservative Party’s poll ratings.

Partygate, the revelations of routine flouting of COVID restrictions by Boris Johnson and his staff contributed to his downfall.

Policies introduced by his short-lived successor Liz Truss did lasting damage to the UK economy and household budgets.

Truss was feted at this year’s Conservative Party conference.

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Unsuitable candidates

More broadly the Conservatives seem unwilling to respect the common decencies of behaviour, rightly demanded of politicians.

Both the recent by-elections resulted from the personal misconduct of the departing MP: allegations of groping men by Chris Pincher, and Nadine Dorries’ strop over not getting a peerage.

The Tory Party then failed to get a grip on the two candidates who replaced them.

Festus Akimbusoye would have had to resign as local Police and Crime Commissioner if he had won.

To avoid another by-election, the Tories rejected a neighbouring MP, Eddie Hughes, who had already been chosen to fight Tamworth under new boundaries.

His replacement Andrew Cooper, a local councillor and former soldier, was found to have said “f*** off” on social media to benefit claimants with phone or TV subscriptions.

Cooper broke with tradition at the count declaration by leaving the stage before the candidates made their traditional speeches of thanks.

The Conservative strategy in both campaigns was to keep their candidates under wraps and avoid exposing them to the media.

The party is now claiming that the low turnout by voters, which is normal at by-elections, suggests there are masses of Conservative voters who sat at home but will turn out at a general election.

We shall see.

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PM: ‘I’m hungry for change’

Labour held the three seats it won in by-elections before 1997 until at least 2010.

In contrast the Conservatives won back all seven by-election constituencies they had lost at the subsequent 1992 general election.

There are currently around 16 MPs sitting as independents having lost their party whip.

Eight of them were Labour, including Nick Brown, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott.

Kier Starmer, the former public prosecutor, has adopted a zero-tolerance stance. If they are not reinstated they will not be able to stand as Labour candidates at the next election.

Standards of behaviour expected of MPs are changing.

Some of the women members standing down have complained of their treatment while in parliament.

Five of the eight successful candidates who snatched by-election victories during this parliament were women.

Meanwhile the proportion of women selected to fight seats for the Conservatives in England is down to less than one in four.

Another by-election?

There is another potential by-election in the offing.

A recall petition will be triggered in Wellingborough if MPs vote to uphold the six-week suspension of Conservative MP Peter Bone recommended by parliament’s Independent Expert Panel for bullying and sexual misconduct.

The outspoken Brexiteer and Johnson-era minister held the Northamptonshire constituency with an 18,540 majority in 2019.

The voting profile is similar to Tamworth’s. It would take a swing of 17.9% for Labour to take it.

This parliament could yet get worse than 1992-1997 for the Conservatives.

After this surprise double by-election defeat, it’s hard to predict what will happen next for Rishi Sunak | Politics News

A surprise double by-election win for Labour that overturns records, sees two of the safest Tory seats in the country turn red and cut the Tory vote cut in half. Whatever Conservative ministers say, this matters. 

The Tamworth by-election defeat is the second biggest Tory to Labour swing since 1945, and setting a record by overturning the 66% Tory majority at the last election. To put it another way, no governing party has lost a seat as safe as Tamworth.

Mid Bedfordshire, which some Tories hoped would remain in their hands at the start of the evening, went red because of – rather than in spite of – the Liberal Democrats.

Follow live: Terrible night for Tories as Starmer says Labour is ‘redrawing the political map’

What could have been a low point for tactical voting ended with Lib Dems claiming partial credit for Labour taking control of Nadine Dorries’s seat, to the gnashing of Labour teeth.

While true that by-elections are no automatic proxy for general elections, hearing a parade of Tory frontbenchers hiding behind this epithet still does mean the Conservative Party has many places to hide.

If the 20 percentage point swings to Labour seen in four recent by-elections were repeated in a national poll next year – admittedly imperfect but nevertheless useful proxy – that would mean a comfortable Labour majority for Sir Keir Starmer.

Tory MPs with 10,000 and 15,000 majorities – which would usually be considered safe – now will be worrying whether they have a sufficient buffer to withstand any Labour tidal wave. Jitters divide parties at a time when they need to be united.

Yet the message from the government is that the response to this by-election to carry on with the existing plan.

Maria Caufield, a Tory frontbencher, suggested that Rishi Sunak should be credited having previously already showed an appetite for change – albeit that was revealed at a chaotic Tory conference and appears to have fail to move the dial with voters in this byelection. She also played down the big Tory to Labour swings as “statistical”.

It is true the number of Labour votes received in Mid Beds was down a fraction on the 2019 general election – a point clung on to by a succession of – this argument ignores that the Conservative vote was a quarter of what it was. There is no easy way for the Tories to spin their way out of this beyond the opening bluster.

Meanwhile Andrew Bowie, a Scottish minister, said that while it’s important to listen “what is clear is that they do agree with our priorities” and “supporting what we are doing” but “they are not prepared to vote for us at the moment”.

When I asked if he thought the Tories were doing everything right, he replied: “Obviously there’s always room for improvement but we are absolutely determined we are on the right course.”

This suggests a government that speaks the language of listening without any intention of action.

Perhaps it is too difficult for the Tories to upend the plan at this point.

Mr Sunak has already done one reset this autumn – changing policies, cabinet members and the team in Number 10 and so far there is little sign it is paying off.

There are enough things already in the agenda to have to cope with: the plan is coming together for next month’s King’s Speech with legislation which has little parliamentary time to pass, followed by an autumn statement which may unveil a mega fiscal black hole.

The final roll of the dice is a possible reshuffle later in the year if Sunak thinks he is stronger than he was at the start of September.

This is enough change on the cards; inside Number 10 they likely do not think there is much need for any further revolution.

The question is how the wider Conservative movement now responds to the dreadful response.

The party conference in September suggested a membership already looking around for alternatives, and some MPs wanting to show they’re listening.

Will this mean restless Tory MPs, pushing for yet more bolder, more distinctive policies – often ideas that appease factions on the right of the party.

Or will it mean a rush for the exit in the new year – more Tory MPs sniffing the wind and deciding not to stand again.

Mr Sunak will try and shrug off wider discontent, but the question is whether he’s strong enough to do this successfully.

The unwelcome message the results send will be heard far and wide across the Conservative movement, meaning it is hard to predict what will happen next.

Tottenham players to reimburse fans after ‘wholly unacceptable’ performance in 6-1 defeat to Newcastle | UK News

Tottenham players have apologised and pledged to reimburse fans who travelled to watch Sunday’s 6-1 humiliation at Newcastle.

The North London team went 5-0 down in the opening 21 minutes on Sunday.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy described the team’s performance as “wholly unacceptable” and sacked interim head coach Cristian Stellini after less than a month in charge.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Spurs squad admitted the performance “wasn’t good enough” and vowed to “give everything to put things right”, before offering fans to help cover the cost of the tickets to the game.

They said: “As a squad, we understand your frustration, your anger. Sunday wasn’t good enough. We know words aren’t enough in situations like this but believe us, a defeat like this hurts.

“We appreciate your support, home and away, and with this in mind we would like to reimburse fans with the cost of their match tickets from St James’ Park.

“We know this does not change what happened on Sunday and we will give everything to put things right, starting against Manchester United on Thursday evening when, again, your support will mean everything to us. Together – and only together – can we move things forward.”

Former midfielder Ryan Mason, 31, has been placed in charge of the first team for the second time, having taken charge of the squad for the remainder of the 2020/21 season following the departure of Jose Mourinho in April 2021.

Tottenham are fifth, six points behind third-placed Newcastle and Manchester United in fourth, who have games in hand.

Tottenham Hotspur's former first team coach Ryan Mason (L) and Cristian Stellini, who Tottenham have sacked
Ryan Mason (L) and Cristian Stellini, who Tottenham have sacked as acting head coach

Stellini took responsibility for Sunday’s result, describing the first 25 minutes as the worst he had ever seen in football.

Captain Hugo Lloris immediately apologised to fans for the “embarrassing” defeat at St James’ Park during his post-match interview, acknowledging the team showed a “lack of pride”.

Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust subsequently called for decisive action to “give us all some hope and something to get behind at the end of a truly awful season”.

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The trust also suggested fans “still deserve a refund” for Sunday’s disastrous display after the announcement dismissing Stellini, who was also part of Antonio Conte’s backroom staff.

“All supporters will now want to get behind Ryan in his attempt to rescue our season,” they added in a statement.

Liverpool thrash Manchester United 7-0 in historic defeat | UK News

Liverpool have thrashed Manchester United 7-0 in the Premier League – United’s heaviest defeat since Boxing Day 1931.

It is the first time the Red Devils have lost by seven goals in any competition since that loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers more than 90 years ago.

“It’s one for the history books,” said Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler at Anfield. “No one could have predicted this scoreline.”

The fact that United won their first trophy for almost six years just seven days ago, beating Newcastle 2-0 at Wembley to lift the Carabao Cup, will make it even harder to process.

Former club captain Gary Neville said the performance had been an “absolute disgrace, a shambles”.

He added: “It’s not their usual spirit and form. [United manager Erik] Ten Hag will deal with it, I’m sure, like he’s dealt with other difficult issues.”

It is the worst result of Ten Hag’s managerial career, analytics company Stats Perform said.

Cody Gakpo celebrates scoring Liverpool's first goal
Cody Gakpo celebrates scoring Liverpool’s first goal

Liverpool had eight shots on target, missing only once.

Another former United skipper, Roy Keane, said the senior players “didn’t show any leadership skills” and the team as a whole would be “ashamed of their performance”.

“Thank God I’ve never been part of a team that’s been beaten by that much playing for Manchester United,” he said.

Liverpool, who’ve had a disappointing season given their recent trophy-winning success, went in at half time just 1-0 up, courtesy of a classy strike from Dutch winger Cody Gakpo.

Then, in the second half, there were a further six goals for the Reds. Gakpo took a second, while Darwin Nunez also claimed two, as did Mohamed Salah.

Roberto Firmino completed the rout.

It means Salah has become Liverpool’s all-time top scorer in the Premier League, with 129 goals in six seasons.

“It’s very special, I can’t lie,” he told Sky Sports.

“This record was in my mind since I came here. After my first season I was always chasing the record.

“To get it today against United with that result is unbelievable. I’m going home to celebrate with the family. Chamomile tea and sleep.”

The previous record holder was Robbie Fowler, with 128.

United midfielder Bruno Fernandes said the defeat was “frustrating” and a “really bad result”.

He added: “We gave too much space away, we gave too much time. It’s just about now going to the next game and getting the result back.”

The 7-0 win – alongside losses this weekend for rivals Newcastle and Tottenham – mean Liverpool are in a good position to make an assault on the top four, and therefore qualification for the Champions League.

They are three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand.

For United, there were also 7-0 losses to Aston Villa in December 1930 and Blackburn Rovers in April 1926, Stats Perform said.

Qatar World Cup: England knocked out after quarter-final defeat to holders France | UK News

England’s World Cup dream lies in tatters after being knocked out by holders France in their quarter-final clash.

Having reached the semi-finals in 2018 and then finishing runners-up at last year’s European Championship, Gareth Southgate’s men were confident of a ticket to the semi-final.

Despite going behind to an early first-half goal, England pulled level through a Harry Kane penalty but Olivier Giroud put the French back in front.

Kane had a further chance to equalise from the penalty spot but blazed over the bar, and England crashed out 2-1.

Southgate was asked after the game whether he felt his players deserved more, and he told ITV: “I think the performance did but in the end goals are decisive.

“I don’t think they could have given any more. They have played really well against a top team.”

He refused to condemn England captain Kane for his penalty miss, saying: “For me, we win and lose as a team.

“We have let a couple of goals in and missed a few chances.

“He has been incredible for us and is so reliable for us in those situations.

“We wouldn’t be here but for the number of goals he has scored for us.”

France took the lead in the 16th minute when Aurélien Tchouaméni struck a fierce shot through the legs of Jude Bellingham and beyond the dive of Jordan Pickford.

England's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford fails to stop a shot on goal by France's Aurelien Tchouameni who scored his side's first goal during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between England and France, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
England’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford fails to stop a shot on goal by France’s Aurelien Tchouameni. Pic: AP
Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Quarter Final - England v France - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - December 10, 2022 England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

England claimed Bukayo Saka was fouled in the build-up but despite the protests, the goal was allowed to stand.

And shortly after there were strong claims for an England penalty when Kane went down under a challenge on the edge of the area but after a VAR check, play was waved on.

England seemed to take back control in the second-half and in the 51st minute Saka burst into the box and was brought down, with the referee instantly giving a penalty.

Kane lashed it into the top corner to bring the Three Lions level and equal Wayne Rooney’s record as England’s all-time top scorer.

But in the 78th minute Giroud beat Harry Maguire in the air to power a header beyond Pickford from Antoine Griezmann’s cross.

France will now go on to play Morocco, after the Atlas Lions’ victory over Portugal on Saturday afternoon.

It was the most Johnson way of admitting defeat – and there was even a hint he might make a comeback | Politics News

After a mad dash back from his Caribbean holiday, a flurry of canvassing, secret summits with rivals Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, and a significant air war campaign, Boris Johnson announced shortly before 9pm last night that he would not run for PM after all.

It was the most Boris Johnson way of admitting defeat: I am a winner who could deliver a Conservative victory in 2024, I have the numbers (he claimed 102 supporters), I could do it if I wanted to, but now is not the time.

All weekend, his team had been saying that he had the numbers and was preparing to run – despite only having 59 public endorsements at the last tally.

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What would it take to force a general election?

‘Grateful’ Sunak reacts as Johnson backs down – live updates

So his withdrawal was a bit of a shock to some of his supporters. Conservative MP James Duddridge tweeted: “Well that was unexpected. Off to bed!”

There had been a lot of scepticism – and still is – as to whether Mr Johnson had really hit the required threshold of 100.

But what was far clearer was that the momentum is firmly with his rival Rishi Sunak, who now has more than 150 backers.

Support has come from all wings of the party – including, crucially, flagbearers on the right such as Lord Frost, Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman.

What became apparent over the weekend for Mr Johnson was that – while he had a core of support – the memories of July’s chaos, his resignation and the turmoil that followed is still very fresh in many MPs’ minds.

As one of his key backers put it to me last night: “The anti-Boris coalition is very vocal and he thinks two-thirds of the party are against him and it will make the party ungovernable, so he can’t do it, and it will go the way of Liz Truss.”

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PM resigns: How the day unfolded

In his statement, Mr Johnson said as much – writing that he had “sadly come to the conclusion” that trying to get back into No 10 now wasn’t the right thing to do. “You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.”

While Mr Sunak was hoping to beat Mr Johnson by two to one among MPs, the former PM would have likely won the vote if Conservative Party members had their say.

The embattled Tories would then be in the worst of all worlds, with another PM the parliamentary party didn’t want.

There was a question mark over whether Mr Johnson would even be able to fill all the roles (up to 170 MPs) in his government given so many would simply not serve under him.

At least one MP said he would resign if Mr Johnson returned to No 10 in those circumstances – while there was talk of mass revolts, defections and even the possibility of a group of Tories collapsing the government in favour of a general election. Mr Johnson perhaps concluded he didn’t have a choice.

But seeds of disunity were visible in his statement last night. Mr Johnson’s remarks that he “reached out” to Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt to “come together in the national interest” – but was spurned – is likely to agitate his most ardent backbench supporters.

This was Nadine Dorries last night: “Boris would have won members vote – already had a mandate from the people. Rishi and Penny, despite requests from Boris refused to unite which would have made governing utterly impossible. Penny actually asked him to step aside for her. It will now be impossible to avoid a general election.”

And just as Mr Johnson faced a tranche of diehard enemies on the backbenches, so will Mr Sunak – in the form of Johnsonites who will never forgive the man they believe brought about the downfall of the former PM.

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Johnson a ‘guaranteed disaster’

Read more:
Why Johnson dropped out – in his own words
Could we get a new PM today? Key timings

It looks likely that Mr Sunak will be the next prime minister, having lost out to Liz Truss over the summer.

He could be declared as the new party leader at about 2pm should he be the only MP to receive 100 nominations.

There will, however, be a mad scramble for votes from Ms Mordaunt as she tries to use Mr Johnson’s withdrawal to get across the line and onto the ballot.

She currently only has 25 public backers so is a long way off – but some Johnson supporters might pivot to her, just to try and block Mr Sunak.

One figure familiar with the Johnson camp suggested last night that many of his backers might privately move over to Ms Mordaunt in the ballots to scupper Mr Sunak’s coronation.

And as for Mr Johnson, he might be reluctantly sitting this one out for now, but there is a hint in this statement – as there was when he quit with the words “hasta la vista baby!” – that he could be back: “I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

Will he stay in parliament and sit it out for when, if ever, it is?

Cabinet minsters urge colleagues to ‘hold their nerve’ and rally behind Truss – or risk election defeat | Politics News

Four cabinet ministers have urged their colleagues to rally behind Liz Truss or risk election defeat amid infighting in the Tory party.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Nadhim Zahawi, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt and Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena have all written articles calling on the party to unite around the new prime minister or risk ending up in opposition.

Cabinet ministers are planning to ambush the prime minister in a meeting on Tuesday to demand she rules out raising benefits in line with wages rather than inflation, according to the Sunday Times.

Poll shows Tories would lose all London seats – latest updates

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, a long-time ally of Ms Truss, is reported to have put her chances of survival at “only 40-60” on Monday, though he denied the remarks.

It has also been rumoured former transport secretary Grant Shapps, who backed Ms Truss’s rival Rishi Sunak for the Tory leadership, is offering to volunteer as a caretaker prime minister.

One report featured particularly harsh words for Michael Gove, with the former Cabinet minister branded “sadistic” after he helped force the chancellor’s humiliating U-turn on tax at the party’s annual conference.

Meanwhile, polling by Opinium for the Observer put Ms Truss’s personal approval rating at minus 47 and Mr Kwarteng’s at minus 51.

Ms Braverman used her piece in The Sun on Sunday to warn against “splits and fallout” in the Tory Party.

“Those working with Labour to undermine our prime minister are putting the Conservatives’ chance of victory at the next election in real danger,” she wrote.

“So the choice for my colleagues and for us is as party is simple: Back Liz or get Keir Starmer, hand-in-hand with Nicola Sturgeon.”

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She previously said she was “disappointed” by the mid-conference U-turn on cutting income tax for the highest earners and accused rebels such as Mr Gove of staging a “coup”.

But she has also expressed views which risked setting her at odds with government policy in recent days, saying she has “reservations” about relaxing immigration controls as part of any trade deal with India and suggesting the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

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In an article for the Mail on Sunday Mr Zahawi admitted the government did not get the “whole package right” when it came to his plan for growth, acknowledging the climbdown on the 45% rate for earnings over £150,000.

However, he drew a line under the debacle, writing: “Another big decision, done.”

“That is the mark of the prime minister’s leadership,” he said.

“She listened and decided to focus on what matters most: the bulk of our plan to get Britain moving.”

He insisted “now is the time” for the Tories to rally behind Ms Truss, warning the alternative – a Labour government “propped up” by the SNP – is “beyond concerning”.

“We cannot allow the keys of the Kingdom to be allowed to fall into their hands,” he said.

“That is why my fellow Conservatives need to hold our nerve.”

Mr Zahawi said the Tories should support their leader and not be “working against her” and cautioned “division will only result in drift, delay and defeat”.

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Voters have their say on Truss and Starmer

Ms Mordaunt also warned against a divide within party ranks, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, she said Ms Truss had “acknowledged mistakes were made” with the mini-budget and “acted” accordingly.

“Anyone can wave to the cameras. Anyone can be all things to all people. That’s the easy bit,” Ms Mordaunt said.

“You measure leaders when they are in the ring dazzled by the media lights taking punch after punch and taking the hard decisions required.

“All my colleagues have a part to play in delivering for the British people. We need all talents helping our nation now. Division will only play into the hands of those who would take our country in the wrong direction.”

Mr Jayawardena issued a similar message in The Sunday Express, saying colleagues must “get behind” Ms Truss and “deliver, deliver, deliver”.

“A failure to do so will result in a coalition of chaos – a Labour government, propped up by the SNP and the Lib Dems,” he said.

“We need to back Liz Truss – or get Keir Starmer in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket.”

Anthony Joshua: ‘I let myself down’ after Oleksandr Usyk defeat | UK News

Anthony Joshua has said he let himself down during an outburst in the ring following his heavyweight title defeat to Oleksandr Usyk.

The Ukrainian fighter won on a split points decision after the pair went the full 12 rounds in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, which ended with Joshua throwing two of the title belts over the ropes and storming off.

Writing on Twitter, the 32-year-old Briton acknowledged his emotions “got the better of me”.

“I wish @usykaa continued success in your quest for greatness. You are a class act champ,” he said.

“Yesterday I had to mentally take myself into a dark place to compete for the championship belts!

“I had two fights, one with Usyk and one with my emotions and both got the better of me.

“I’ll be the first to admit, I let my self down.

“I acted out of pure passion and emotion and when not controlled it ain’t great. I love this sport so so much and I’ll be better from this point on. Respect.”

Joshua’s erratic behaviour saw him return to the ring after he had stormed off, grabbing the mic to address the crowd inside the King Abdullah Sports City stadium.

“If you knew my story, you would understand the passion,” he said.

“I ain’t no amateur boxer, from five years old, that was an elite prospect from youth.

“I was going to jail, I got bail and I started training my a*** off, I wanted to be able to fight.

“This guy beat me tonight, maybe I could have done better, but it shows the level of hard work I put in, so please give him a round of applause as our heavyweight champion of the world.”

The impromptu, impassioned speech split the boxing community, with some reacting in bemusement.

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‘I thought he was concussed!’

‘That was Usyk’s time to celebrate’

Joshua also received criticism for not allowing Usyk, who a few months ago was fighting on the front line of Russia’s invasion of his homeland, to speak first.

Fellow boxer Frazer Clarke told Sky Sports: “That was Usyk’s time to celebrate that victory, and he didn’t get to do it straight away, and I don’t think that was right.

“Anthony is a great person and has done a lot for a lot of people, a lot for me, but I feel like he had a bit of a bad one there, and it was out of character.”

Addressing the speech in the post-match news conference, Joshua said: “When you try and do things from your heart, not everyone’s going to always understand.

“It was just from the heart, I knew I was mad at myself… and I thought ‘I’ve gotta get out of here’.”

The defeat was his second consecutive loss to Usyk.

Read more: Who is Oleksandr Usyk?

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Joshua on storming out of ring: ‘I was mad’

Joshua has not offered an apology for his behaviour, but paid tribute to Usyk – and briefly posed with him holding the Ukrainian flag in a stand of solidarity in defiance of Russia’s ongoing assault.

Usyk said he hoped his win, which was free to view on Ukrainian TV, would raise more awareness of the war.

“I want to say that some people in the world are underestimating what is going on in Ukraine,” he said.

“Please open your eyes and see what is happening.”

Zelenskyy warns of ‘vicious’ Russian attack – live updates

Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk, left, celebrates after beating Britain's Anthony Joshua, as they both hold a Ukrainian flag after their world heavyweight title fight at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Usyk, 35, also teased a potential clash with Tyson Fury after the fight.

Fury seemed keen, saying in a now-deleted Instagram post that he would “relieve the Ukrainian dosser of his belts”.