Cor­byn could win with­out gain­ing a seat

Tory memo warns that tac­ti­cal vot­ing in just 12 con­stituen­cies could oust John­son from Down­ing St

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Gor­don Rayner Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

JEREMY COR­BYN is “much closer” to be­com­ing prime min­is­ter than vot­ers think be­cause he could get into Down­ing Street with­out win­ning a sin­gle ex­tra seat, a Tory party memo has warned.

The memo, dated Dec 7, says the chances of a Cor­byn-led coali­tion have been “se­ri­ously un­der­es­ti­mated”, as gains of just 12 seats by the SNP, Lib­eral Democrats and other mi­nor par­ties would be enough to re­move Boris John­son from No 10.

In­ter­nal Tory polling says a hung par­lia­ment would be the re­sult of “as lit­tle as a 1 to 2 per cent move­ment in the cur­rent vote in a hand­ful of seats”.

Re­main cam­paign­ers have cal­cu­lated that just 40,000 strate­gi­cally tar­geted votes spread across mar­ginal con­stituen­cies would be enough to swing the re­sult in Mr Cor­byn’s favour. The Prime Min­is­ter spent yes­ter­day tour­ing Leave-sup­port­ing Labour con­stituen­cies, but his day was dom­i­nated by a row over a pic­ture of a boy be­ing treated on the floor of a hos­pi­tal and his sug­ges­tion that the BBC li­cence fee could be abol­ished.

Mr John­son will to­day stress that an­other hung par­lia­ment is a “clear and present” dan­ger be­cause of “so­phis­ti­cated and well-fi­nanced at­tempts un­der way to pre­vent a Con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity through tac­ti­cal vot­ing”.

Yes­ter­day, John Mcdon­nell, the shadow chan­cel­lor, en­cour­aged Labour vot­ers to con­sider a Lib Dem vote to “pre­vent a Tory gov­ern­ment”.

With just two more days of cam­paign­ing to go, the Tory memo – cir­cu­lated among Con­ser­va­tive Cam­paign Head­quar­ters staff at the week­end – re­flects the fear grip­ping Tory cam­paign­ers over the threat of tac­ti­cal vot­ing.

A poll of polls yes­ter­day showed the To­ries 11 per­cent­age points ahead of Labour and set for a 46-seat ma­jor­ity. How­ever, an­other poll by Comres for Re­main United, which is cam­paign­ing for tac­ti­cal vot­ing, claims the Tory lead has shrunk to 7 per cent, which would give them just a two-seat ma­jor­ity.

Tory party chiefs are hugely

con­cerned about the dan­ger of com­pla­cency set­ting in among Re­main-back­ing Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers who will look at the polls and think they can “make a con­se­quence-free state­ment” by vot­ing for an­other party as a protest.

The memo, sent by Tory poll­ster Michael Brooks to cam­paign direc­tor Isaac Le­v­ido and seen by The Daily Tele­graph, says the “ma­jor risk” to a John­son vic­tory is “the be­lief that the Con­ser­va­tives are in­deed on course to win a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity”. It says “vot­ers’ high ex­pec­ta­tions of a Con­ser­va­tive vic­tory leave open the pos­si­bil­ity they may use their vote to make a state­ment, wrongly be­liev­ing that do­ing so will not change the out­come”.

It sug­gests tra­di­tional Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers who also voted Re­main could vote Lib Dem in St Al­bans, Chel­tenham, Rich­mond Park and Winch­ester.

Rich­mond Park, held by Zac Gold­smith by just 45 votes, is a key Lib Dem tar­get, but Winch­ester is held by Steve Brine with a ma­jor­ity of 9,999, show­ing the ex­tent to which the To­ries be­lieve Re­main-vot­ing seats are vul­ner­a­ble.

The memo says such vot­ers “fear” a Cor­byn gov­ern­ment but “do not be­lieve he is a cred­i­ble threat be­cause they can­not see his path to vic­tory”.

Mr Brooks also says the col­lapse of the Lib Dem vote in the Mid­lands and North, in seats such as South­port, Derby North, Northamp­ton South, Copeland and Calder Val­ley, has “over­whelm­ingly ben­e­fited” Labour, mak­ing Tory seats vul­ner­a­ble to Labour and Labour-held Con­ser­va­tive tar­get seats harder to take. Calder Val­ley, where the in­cum­bent Tory has a 609 ma­jor­ity, could swing to Labour if fewer than a third of 2017’s Lib Dem sup­port­ers vote tac­ti­cally.

The memo also iden­ti­fies a po­ten­tial loss in Guild­ford, where Anne Mil­ton, a for­mer Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ter, is run­ning as an in­de­pen­dent and de­fend­ing a 17,040 ma­jor­ity. Fi­nally, it names five Leave-back­ing seats where the Brexit Party could ruin Con­ser­va­tive chances of mak­ing gains by split­ting the Leave vote: Gedling; Lin­coln; High Peak; North West Durham; and Dews­bury.

Mr Brooks warns: “The re­al­ity is that Jeremy Cor­byn is much closer to be­com­ing prime min­is­ter...than many vot­ers re­alise.

“Be­tween them, [op­po­si­tion] par­ties only need to win 12 more seats and

‘The re­al­ity is that Jeremy Cor­byn is much closer to be­com­ing prime min­is­ter … than many vot­ers re­alise’

Jeremy Cor­byn will be prime min­is­ter. The re­al­ity is that Labour do not need to gain a sin­gle seat, they can sim­ply rely on the SNP to make gains in Scot­land or the Lib­eral Democrats to make gains in south­ern Con­ser­va­tive seats, and Jeremy Cor­byn will be in No10.”

Be­tween them, Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens won 314 seats in 2017, with 326 needed for an over­all ma­jor­ity.

Mr Brooks says talk of tac­ti­cal vot­ing is start­ing to have an ef­fect in the North, where Leavers “be­lieve they need to vote for the Brexit Party to se­cure their pre­ferred out­come with Boris John­son as prime min­is­ter”, even though vot­ing Tory would be enough to de­feat Labour in cer­tain seats.

On a visit to Stafford­shire to­day Mr John­son will ham­mer home the doc­u­ment’s mes­sage by say­ing: “Jeremy Cor­byn and his Lib Dem, na­tion­al­ist and Green al­lies need only 12 more seats than last time to make Jeremy Cor­byn prime min­is­ter and con­tinue the chaos of a hung par­lia­ment.

“We’ll be stuck in this limbo, this first cir­cle of hell, for the fore­see­able fu­ture...on the other hand, the Con­ser­va­tives need only nine more seats for a ma­jor­ity. We could fi­nally get Brexit done, end the un­cer­tainty and move on.

“That is the choice and it could go ei­ther way – 12 seats in one di­rec­tion and the night­mare will con­tinue in­def­i­nitely; nine seats in the other di­rec­tion and we can break free.”

Mr Mcdon­nell pre­dicted “sur­pris­ing

‘We’ll be stuck in this limbo, this first cir­cle of hell...12 seats in one di­rec­tion and the night­mare will con­tinue’

re­sults right across the coun­try” and an even greater “shock” than in 2017, when Theresa May lost her ma­jor­ity de­spite start­ing with a huge poll lead.

Asked on ITV if he would en­cour­age peo­ple to vote tac­ti­cally in mar­ginal seats, the shadow chan­cel­lor said: “I al­ways urge peo­ple to vote for Labour, but peo­ple will make up their own minds about how their vote will have the max­i­mum ef­fect of pre­vent­ing a

Tory gov­ern­ment un­der Boris John­son.”

A poll of polls compiled by Elec­toral Cal­cu­lus puts the Con­ser­va­tives on 43.5 per cent, nearly 11 per cent ahead of Labour who are on 32.7 per cent.

The Lib­eral Democrats have been squeezed by Labour and crashed to 12.5 per cent, down from a peak of 19 per cent when the cam­paign started five weeks ago.

The fig­ures would trans­late into a 46-seat Con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity, with the Lib Dems on course for 13 MPS, only one more than in 2017, mean­ing they would lose seven of the 20 seats they had at the end of the last par­lia­ment fol­low­ing de­fec­tions.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has also been squeezed by Mr John­son and are down to just 2.9 per cent with no seats pre­dicted.

Martin Bax­ter, founder of Elec­toral Cal­cu­lus, said the Con­ser­va­tive vote had “sta­bilised and con­sol­i­dated” but warned: “There are still two well known fac­tors of polling. One is polling er­ror, and the sec­ond is tac­ti­cal vot­ing, both of which could take us back into hung par­lia­ment ter­ri­tory.”

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