U.K. Conservatives Lose By-Elections, Adding to Pressure on Boris Johnson

“We are facing pressures on the costs of living,” Mr. Johnson added. “We are seeing spikes in fuel prices, energy costs, food costs, that is hitting people. We have to recognize that there is more that we have got to do and we certainly will.

Challenged later on his own responsibility for the two losses, Mr. Johnson responded: “I genuinely, genuinely, don’t think that the way forward in British politics is to focus on issues of personalities, whether they are mine or others.”

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, offered his support to the prime minister, echoing his explanation of the defeats and accepting some of the blame. “We all take responsibility for the results and I’m determined to continue working to tackle the cost of living,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Sunak had been seen as a potential successor to Mr. Johnson until his popularity plummeted this year, and — although other senior ministers kept noticeably quiet — his statement suggests that a coordinated cabinet move against the prime minister was unlikely.

However, one senior Conservative figure, Michael Howard, called for the resignation of a prime minister now seen by many as an electoral liability. “The party, and more importantly the country, would be better off under new leadership,” Mr. Howard, a former Tory leader, told the BBC, adding, “Members of the Cabinet should very carefully consider their positions.”

And Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a senior Conservative lawmaker, said Mr. Johnson could still be removed either by a cabinet rebellion or if the rule protecting him from another no-confidence vote for a year was changed. “There will be a lot of conversations taking place next week,” he told Times Radio, “and we’ll have to see what happens.”

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