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These byelection results are the verdict on a cruel and useless government that’s running out of road | Jonathan Freedland

Losses in Tiverton & Honiton and in Wakefield are more than midterm blues. They’re a sign of the anti-Tory majority getting its act together

The voters of Tiverton and Honiton didn’t get the memo. Nor, it seems, did the good people of Wakefield. They were meant to have moved on, to have put Partygate behind them, to have realised that Boris Johnson got the big calls right and now enjoys the full confidence of his colleagues, to have “priced in” his law-breaking and lying, to be grateful that he took full responsibility for the appalling behaviour revealed by Sue Gray because he had, after all, uttered the words “I take full responsibility.”

Instead voters in two constituencies at opposite ends of England have declared that they don’t believe a word of that rubbish, rejecting the governing party in a double byelection defeat more decisive than even the gloomiest Conservative pessimist could have predicted. In Wakefield, Labour retook a “red wall” seat on a 12.7% swing that, replicated across the country, would see them back in government with a Commons majority. In Tiverton, the Lib Dems outdid even their own spectacular record-breaker in North Shropshire six months ago, overturning a majority of 24,000 with a swing of 30%.

Jonathan Freedland is a Guardian columnist

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