Panic will spread through Tory ranks after stunning poll

Politics

The findings of the SkyNews/YouGov MRP poll are a disaster for the Conservatives, a worry for Labour and good news for the Lib Dems and Reform UK.

The forecast of a Tory wipeout will spread panic among Conservative candidates and potentially spark a fresh bout of mutiny against Rishi Sunak from the right of his party.

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For Labour, the suggestion that Sir Keir Starmer is heading for a landslide even bigger than Tony Blair won in 1997 will alarm those in the party already fearing complacency.

But for the Lib Dems, the projection that Sir Ed Davey’s party is heading for a result to match the heady days of Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy will be a massive confidence boost.

However, the party that will be really delighted is Reform UK – already newly energised with Nigel Farage replacing Richard Tice as leader – who will claim that with Labour on course to win, Tory supporters can vote for them.

There will also consternation in the Tory high command at the forecast that so many of the party’s big beasts – led by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – are at risk of losing their seat.

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Mr Hunt is fighting the new constituency of Godalming and Ash – in his favour it’s in a part of the affluent Surrey stockbroker belt represented by Conservative MPs since 1910.

But the cabinet minsters who are vulnerable are in seats held by Labour in the Blair and Brown years or the Liberal Democrats in the Ashdown, Kennedy or Nick Clegg years.

Grant Shapps’ Welwyn Hatfield seat was Labour from 1974 to 1979 and then from 1997 to 2005, when the current defence secretary captured it from Labour.

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt’s Portsmouth North constituency has been a bell-weather seat since it was created in 1974 and she won it from Labour in 2010.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk is defending a slender 981 majority over the Liberal Democrats in Cheltenham – a seat the LibDems held from 1992 until 2015.

YouGov MRP suggests that the Conservatives will lose 19 points on the 2019 result
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YouGov MRP suggests that the Conservatives will lose 19 points on the 2019 result

But what of Reform UK, with the flamboyant Mr Farage back as leader, taking part in TV debates and so becoming a nightly presence in voters’ living rooms?

The poll suggests the party won’t win any seats and Mr Farage is fighting a pretty huge Tory majority of 24,702 won by the former TV actor Giles Watling.

The YouGov projection suggests Hartlepool, held by the Tories since a 2021 by-election in which Jill Mortimer won a majority over Labour of 6,940 votes, is Reform UK’s best prospect.

That may change now that Mr Farage is standing in Clacton – a seat where Tory defector Douglas Carswell won a by-election for UKIP in 2014 and held it in the 2015 general election.

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As ever with polls predicting a Labour landslide, there will be a large degree of scepticism. After all, when Mr Blair won a 179-seat majority in 1997, John Major’s 21-seat 1992 majority had all but disappeared.

Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority in 2019 and Sky News election guru Professor Michael Thrasher estimates that with boundary changes the Tories’ notional majority is 94.

But not only are these poll findings stunning, the 42.9% predicted for Labour is slightly less than the 45% and 46% in some recent opinion polls.

There’s still a month until polling day on 4 July. Governing parties behind in the polls usually close the gap on their opponents during election campaigns.

But in this election, that’s not happening yet.

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