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Tory majority down to one as Boris suffers setback in by-election defeat

Quickest by-election defeat for any post-war PM: Boris Johnson PICTURE: PA

BORIS JOHNSON has been left with a working majority of just one in the Commons after the Tories were defeated in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

The Liberal Democrats won the mid-Wales constituency by a margin of 1,425, swinging the vote nearly 12 per cent from the Tories.

An electoral pact saw Plaid Cymru and the Green Party stand aside to boost the chances of a pro-EU MP being elected, and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson predicted further alliances in future.

Celebrations: Lib Dem MP Jane Dodds, centre, with supporters after her win in Brecon and Radnorshire PICTURE: PA

The first major electoral test of Mr Johnson as Tory leader became his first defeat with the announcement of Jane Dodds’ victory in the early hours.

The Tory loss will add to the PM’s challenges to steer Brexit through parliament and may increase the chances of a snap general election.

With the vote coming eight days after Mr Johnson was appointed, it is the quickest by-election defeat for any PM of the post-war period.

‘More co-operation in future elections’: Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, right, with victorious Jane Dodds today PICTURE: GETTY

In a celebratory appearance alongside her new MP, Ms Swinson said: ‘This by-election victory shows that the people of Brecon and Radnorshire not only have a first-class MP in Jane Dodds but they have shown the people of Britain that we can do better than the choice on offer between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.’

She added: ‘I will fight to keep our country in the European Union, and we now have in parliament one more MP who will fight to make that happen.’

Ms Swinson said she had exchanged messages with the Green and Plaid leaderships and told the BBC: ‘I think there will be more co-operation in future elections.’

Welsh Lib Dem leader Ms Dodds said: ‘My very first act as your MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson wherever he is hiding and tell him loud and clear, “Stop playing with the future of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit now.”‘

She pushed into second place the Conservative candidate Chris Davies, who was the constituency’s MP until he was ousted in a recall petition after he admitted submitting false invoices for expenses.

Despite 19 per cent of the electorate petitioning for his recall, the Tories selected Mr Davies to fight to reclaim the seat.

MP until he was ousted: Conservative candidate Chris Davies PICTURE: GETTY

The Lib Dems secured 43 per cent of the vote, the Tories 39 per cent and the Brexit Party 10 per cent.

Fourth-placed Labour narrowly avoided losing its deposit by securing just over 5 per cent of the share.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn described the result as ‘disappointing’.

‘The Liberal Democrats won it after doing a deal with Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

‘I think that a lot of voters were determined to get rid of the Conservatives, and they voted accordingly. So we were squeezed, but it’s a place we have not held for a very long time. The area has changed a bit.’

Tory chairman James Cleverly said it was ‘disappointing to lose a parliamentary colleague’ but, attempting to put a brave face on the defeat, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What we saw was a very close result in a by-election in which the Lib Dems were expected to romp home comfortably.’

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said: ‘The victory of Remain cross-party co-operation and Jane Dodds in Brecon and Radnorshire last night will give those in Downing Street plotting a snap general election pause for thought, because it shows they cannot take the public for granted.’