Boris Johnson has insisted that he will “keep going” at No 10 despite the Conservative party’s crushing double by-election losses in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield.
The prime minister promised to “listen” to voters after the Liberal Democrats overturned a Tory majority of 24,000 in Devon and Labour retook the west Yorkshire seat by almost 5,000 votes.
“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 said.
“I 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.”
Speaking in Rwanda, where he is attending the Commonwealth summit, Mr Johnson also thanked departing Tory chair Oliver Dowden following his shock resignation on Friday morning.
In an apparent reference to Partygate, Mr Dowden said he shared the feelings of Tory supporters who were “distressed and disappointed by recent events”.
A source close to the PM, who faces further trips to the G7 and NATO summits in the days ahead, told Politico that he was in no hurry to rush home to replace Mr Dowden as Tory chair.
“He’s got a big job to do and he’s doing it. Not opting out of G7 when the world faces an economic storm nor NATO when there is a war in Europe.”