‘Tories face 1997 wipe-out’

YouGov survey of 18,761 people predicts that Rishi Sunak will suffer Conservatives’ worst result on record…reports Asian Lite news

The Conservative Party is on course to suffer a general election wipeout worse than that of 1997, according to a major new poll that suggests Labour could secure a 154-seat majority.

The YouGov survey of 18,761 people predicted that Rishi Sunak would suffer the Tories’ worst general election result on record, while Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour would win a majority almost twice the size of Boris Johnson’s in 2019.

The poll, carried out between March 7 and 27, showed that Labour would secure 403 seats if a contest were held tomorrow. The Tories would be a distant second with just 155 seats, worse than the 165 they secured under Sir John Major in 1997 as Sir Tony Blair swept to power in a Labour landslide.

Election data from the House of Commons Library, which date back to 1918, show this would be the worst Conservative performance on record. Such a showing would also compare unfavourably with the 2001 election when the Tories also picked up 165 seats.

The poll is likely to raise further questions in Tory ranks about Sunak’s political future, with just months remaining until the general election is expected to take place.

It is a worse showing for the Tories than the last YouGov poll of the same kind in January, conducted for The Telegraph on behalf of the Conservative Britain Alliance, which predicted that Mr Sunak’s party would win 169 seats – a better showing than 1997 – while putting Labour on 385.

On Wednesday, Downing Street insisted the latest poll showed that the next election was a clear choice between Sunak and Sir Keir and warned against votes for Reform UK.

Although the projections show that Richard Tice’s Right-wing party is not on track to win any seats, it is set to win 12 per cent of the vote.

Reform is also predicted to leapfrog the Conservatives into second in 36 constituencies, all of which are set to elect a Labour MP. Many of these are Red Wall seats in the North and Midlands that were won by the Tories for the first time in 2019.

Lee Anderson, the only Reform MP and a one-time Conservative Party deputy chairman, is projected to lose his Ashfield constituency to Labour but beat his former party into third place.

A Government source said: “This just goes to show that a vote for Reform is a vote for Keir Starmer. Over the next few months, minds will focus on the choice between our plan to keep driving down inflation, grow the economy and build a brighter future, and Keir Starmer, who has no plan and would take us back to square one.”

The poll also showed that the Liberal Democrats are set for a “significant parliamentary comeback”, also picking up 12 per cent of the vote.

The first-past-the-post system and fading Tory fortunes mean this would equate to 49 seats, including the Godalming and Ash constituency of Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor.

Hunt would therefore become the most high-profile casualty of the next election in a “Portillo moment” akin to Michael Portillo, the then defence secretary, losing his seat in 1997.

Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader – widely touted as a potential successor to Mr Sunak – is projected to lose in Portsmouth North, where she trails the Labour candidate by four points.

Michelle Donelan, the Science Secretary, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, are predicted to lose to Labour.

The sample size used by YouGov enabled it to break down results by the constituencies in which the election will be fought using its Multi-Level Regression and Poststratification method, which successfully forecasted the 2017 and 2019 UK elections and more recently predicted votes in Australia and Spain.

YouGov projects that Labour will be the largest party in Scotland, winning 28 seats north of the border compared to the SNP’s 19, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats winning five apiece.

Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, who is projected to lose his seat to Labour, posted on X that the polling model is “clearly flawed and fails to factor in my infectious charm and charisma”.

Politicians are often sceptical about opinion polls, and many of YouGov’s predictions will no doubt by queried by MPs and party officials in the coming days.

Despite a double-digit lead in the polls for some time now, Sir Keir Starmer has imposed an iron discipline on his shadow cabinet about the danger of complacency.

While some pundits predict the next election will be a repeat of the party’s 1997 landslide victory, there are fears within Labour of a 1992 false dawn – when Neil Kinnock lost what was believed to be an “unlosable” election.

The 154-seat Labour majority in the new poll is edging towards the 179-seat majority won by Tony Blair in 1997, though well short of a 254-seat majority suggested in another MRP-style poll in mid-February.

If Labour were to win the next election, it would bring an end to 14 years of Conservative government under five prime ministers.

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