Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces a third by-election test after a close ally of Boris Johnson resigned from the Commons with “immediate effect”.
In a tumultuous 24 hours for the Conservative Party, Nigel Adams MP announced on Saturday that he was following the former prime minister and former culture secretary Nadine Dorries’ lead in quitting Westminster.
In a tweet, Mr Adams said: “Yesterday, Selby Conservatives selected an excellent new parliamentary candidate.
“I’ve today informed the chief whip that I will be standing down as a Member of Parliament with immediate effect.
Mr Adams and Ms Dorries had been tipped for peerages in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours but neither featured in Friday’s published list.
There has been speculation that Downing Street wanted their names removed to avoid by-election contests, although No 10 said Mr Sunak had no involvement in producing the final list.
The Prime Minister has yet to comment on Mr Johnson’s departure.
While the Tories enjoy a comfortable 20,000 majority in Selby and Ainsty, Mr Adams’ decision to exit immediately rather than wait until the next election means the Tories will face contests on three fronts.
Mr Johnson sensationally quit Westminster on Friday as he launched a fierce attack on the Commons Privileges Committee investigation into whether he misled MPs with his assurances over parties held in Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns.
In a 1,000-word statement, he said the seven-person panel, which is chaired by veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman but has a Conservative majority, was on a “witch hunt” and compared it with a “kangaroo court”.
Mr Johnson said he was “bewildered and appalled” at being “forced out, anti-democratically” by a probe that he claimed had set out from the beginning to “find me guilty, regardless of the facts”.
He denied lying to MPs and said he “corrected the record as soon as possible” after receiving information about lockdown gatherings in No 10.
The former Tory leader’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, where he had a 7,000 majority, was in Labour’s top 100 targets at the next election even before Mr Johnson’s resignation.
Labour wasted no time in targeting the seat, with the party’s campaign co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood and a host of other MPs joining activists and candidate Danny Beales in Uxbridge on Saturday.
The Liberal Democrats have briefed that they could potentially pull off an upset in Ms Dorries’ former Mid Bedfordshire constituency.
The TalkTV presenter said on Friday that she did not plan on triggering a by-election but later U-turned, resigning shortly before Mr Johnson’s honours roll was made public.
Labour came second in Selby at the 2019 election.
It comes as Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey ruled out a pact with Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party to encourage tactical voting in a bid to secure victories in the by-elections.
“There’ll be no pacts, no deals,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Sir Ed’s party said the flurry of resignations showed the Tories were in “meltdown” and urged the Prime Minister to call a general election.
While the committee’s findings have yet to be released, Mr Johnson’s response appears to confirm that the MPs have concluded he had not been truthful about the boozy parties.
Ms Harman’s panel will meet on Monday and publish its findings “promptly”.
The committee was reportedly preparing to recommend a 10-day suspension from the Commons for Mr Johnson, a conclusion which would have paved the way for a recall petition and a potential by-election in his west London constituency if more than 10% of his constituents voted for one.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner called him a “coward” for quitting the Commons and said he “jumped” before having to face the verdict of voters.
The former Brexit secretary told GB News: “The truth of the matter is, ask around Parliament, ask most of the MPs, most people are fairly sure he misled the House.
“And he did so many times and he did so knowing that these parties had occurred and he had been at some of them.
“It is hard to be at a party and not notice it is a party.”
He said his fellow Brexit campaigner had been given “hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money” to pay for “the most expensive lawyers in the land” to advise him during the inquiry.
He added: “I hardly think that’s unfair treatment.”
Mr Johnson appeared to leave the door open for a return to Parliament, saying he was leaving “for now” in his lengthy statement.
But Tory MP Bob Seely told Times Radio that Mr Johnson “ain’t going to be leader of the Conservative Party again” and that his achievements were “all in the past”.