Corbyn could win without gaining a seat
Tory memo warns that tactical voting in just 12 constituencies could oust Johnson from Downing St
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.”