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What does the Brecon and Radnorshire blow mean for Boris Johnson?

Despite saying no-deal chances were ‘a million-to-one against’, the PM’s dwindling majority will increase fears the odds are shortening.

What does the result mean for Boris Johnson? (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
What does the result mean for Boris Johnson? (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

The Tories have been dealt a blow by the loss of the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

Jane Dodds won the constituency for the Lib Dems, beating Conservative candidate Chris Davies who ran despite being ousted by constituents following a conviction for submitting fake expenses invoices.

Now Boris Johnson’s working majority has shrunk to just one, what does this mean for the new Prime Minister?

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Liberal Democrats MP Jane Dodds celebrates with supporters after winning the seat in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election (Ben Birchall/PA)

– A Brexit deal

Mr Johnson was always going to face a battle to shepherd any Brexit deal through the Commons with so many MPs being firmly against his proposals.

But now it would only take a single Conservative MP, or a colleague from the DUP who prop up the Government, to vote with the opposition to scupper his plans.

Theresa May failed three times to get her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament.

Mr Johnson was one of those MPs hostile to her deal, until the final time when he decided to back it.

Even if he does secure a new agreement with the EU against the odds, he will now face an even tougher challenge to get it through Parliament.

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State of the parties in the House of Commons (PA Graphics)

– Could he call a snap general election?

One way to improve the numbers would be for Mr Johnson to seek a general election.

He would need support totalling two-thirds of the seats in the Commons.

But believing an election would surely increase the Tory vote in Parliament would be wishful thinking.

Mrs May called for an election when she appeared to be riding high in the polls.

Instead of bolstering her support, she lost the Conservatives’ majority and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour made gains.

The picture seems even less clear now, with the added factors of the Liberal Democrats’ resurgence and the Brexit Party’s single-message strength.

Mr Johnson has ruled out seeking a snap election, though his spending pledges and promotion of Vote Leave veterans in his top team have fuelled speculation this move is on the horizon.

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Conservative candidate Chris Davies was pushed into second place in the by-election (Ben Birchall/PA)

– A vote of no confidence?

Mr Corbyn could try and bring down Mr Johnson with a vote of no confidence.

Two weeks would have to pass without a new Government being formed following the move being backed by a majority of MPs, a situation now skewed slightly more towards Labour.

But, despite Mr Corbyn’s insistence he is ready to take on Mr Johnson at an election, it is also a risk for his party amid confusion over its Brexit stance and criticism over anti-Semitism.

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The change in vote share (PA Graphics)

– No-deal Brexit

Mr Johnson made a “do or die” pledge to pull the UK out of the EU on the October 31 deadline, regardless of whether a new Withdrawal Agreement is negotiated.

He has stressed that he wants to secure a new deal, but the EU says this is out of the question.

So too, the bloc says, is his desire to destroy the backstop seeking to prevent a hard border in Ireland in the event no final deal is brokered.

The so-called Gaukeward squad of Tory heavyweights, including namesake David Gauke and former chancellor Philip Hammond, are among those plotting against any no-deal attempt.

Mr Johnson has refused to rule out taking the controversial step of suspending Parliament in order to force his desire through against the opposition of MPs.

Despite predicting during his campaign that the chances of a no-deal Brexit were “a million-to-one against”, his dwindling working majority will increase fears that the odds are shortening.

PA

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