Speaking to broadcasters from Rwanda on Thursday, Mr Johnson said : “I’m going to be watching the results with interests but always full of optimism and buoyancy but most seasoned political observers know that by-elections in mid-term are never necessarily easy for any government.”
Wakefield was one of the so-called Red Wall seats won by the Tories in the 2019 general election after being a Labour stronghold since the 1930s, but Labour is now hoping to take it back.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said a victory in the northern constituency “could be the birthplace of the next Labour government”.
On the eve of polls opening, he said: “The public is fed up of Boris Johnson and a Conservative Party that promises big but never delivers.
“Labour’s candidate Simon Lightwood has run a positive campaign – with a plan to attract well-paid jobs and investment to Wakefield, put more police on the streets to tackle anti-social behaviour, and to fight for scrapping the unfair National Insurance rise.
“But a vote for anyone other than Labour will let Boris Johnson off the hook. The people of Wakefield have a chance to send a message to the Tories that enough is enough”.
If the Conservatives were to lose both by-elections, in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton tonight it would be only the seventh time a government has suffered such a double defeat since the Second World War.