Liberal Democrats win a seat in a constituency never previously lost by Johnson's Conservative party, prompting questions about his leadership amid weeks of scandal and soaring Covid-19 infections.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he took
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he took "personal responsibility" for the crushing by-election defeat. (Reuters)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has suffered a stunning defeat in a parliamentary by-election that was a referendum on his government.

His ruling Tories had held the seat in North Shropshire, central England, by a massive majority just two years ago, but saw that wiped out by the Liberal Democrats in a vote on Thursday, a historic defeat set to intensify the mutinous mood among Conservative MPs.

The Tories lose the safe rural seat, won by 23,000 votes in 2019, by almost 6,000 votes, as the Liberal Democrats mustered a swing of 34 percentage points -- the seventh biggest in by-election history.

"The people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people," winning candidate Helen Morgan said in her victory speech.

"They have said loudly and clearly: 'Boris Johnson, the party is over'".

READ MORE: UK PM Johnson apologises, launches probe into staff lockdown party

Johnson takes 'personal responsibility'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday he took "personal responsibility" for the crushing by-election defeat.

"I take personal responsibility," embattled Johnson said in a clip for television news, calling the vote in the North Shropshire constituency in central England that handed victory to the Liberal Democrats "very disappointing".

"In all humility, I've got to accept that verdict," Johnson said, insisting he understood "people's frustrations" and "what the voters are saying in North Shropshire".

Against this backdrop, supporters and opponents are questioning Johnson’s handling of the pandemic after Covid-19 infections soared to records this week as the omicron variant swept through the UK.

Many voters are frustrated after two years of a pandemic that has claimed over 145,000 lives, triggered a series of lockdowns and battered the economy.

Even some members of Johnson’s own party have now had enough.

Roger Gale, a Conservative lawmaker since 1983, said the result in North Shropshire was a clear indication that the public is dissatisfied with the way Johnson is running the government.

“I think this has to be seen as a referendum on the prime minister’s performance, and I think that the prime minister is now in last orders time,” Gale told the BBC.

READ MORE: Why are vaccine passports so controversial in the UK?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies