13%

That’s the level of Tory sup­port ahead of polls as Leave vot­ers desert them

Daily Mail - - News - By Claire El­li­cott Po­lit­i­cal Correspond­ent

THE Tories were lan­guish­ing at just 13 per cent in the polls yes­ter­day as the party braced it­self for a mis­er­able night at the lo­cal elec­tions.

A shock sur­vey showed Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in first place on 30 per cent – nine points ahead of its clos­est ri­val Labour, and an ex­tra­or­di­nary 17 points ahead of the Con­ser­va­tives.

Al­though the sur­vey was on vot­ing in­ten­tions for the elec­tions to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in three weeks’ time, as op­posed to yes­ter­day’s lo­cal elec­tions, it il­lus­trated the scale of dis­il­lu­sion­ment over the Tories’ fail­ure to de­liver on the ref­er­en­dum re­sult.

MPs are now rec­on­ciled to the Euro­pean elec­tions go­ing ahead on May 23. The only way to stop them is to pass a Brexit deal be­fore that date.

A White­hall of­fi­cial con­ceded yes­ter­day: ‘Re­al­is­ti­cally we have passed that point.’ He in­di­cated that the Govern­ment had re­vised its tar­get and now planned to win sup­port for a Brexit deal by the end of June.

This would mean Bri­tish MEPs would not need to take up their seats at the start of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment ses­sion in July. The Con­ser­va­tives are pre­dicted to lose any­thing be­tween 600 and 1,000 seats when the lo­cal elec­tion re­sults are fi­nalised to­day, in what is ex­pected to be their worst per­for­mance in nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury.

The only fac­tor that may mit­i­gate the scale of the losses may be that dis­grun­tled Leave vot­ers have nowhere else to go.

The Brexit Party are not stand­ing in the lo­cal elec­tions, while Ukip are only con­test­ing one in six coun­cil seats, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to reg­is­ter a pro-Brexit protest vote. It is more likely an­gry Tory vot­ers will stay away, re­sult­ing in gains for other par­ties.

Polling ex­pert Sir John Cur­tice said the ab­sence of pro-Brexit op­tions rep­re­sented a ‘sil­ver lin­ing’ for the Prime Min­is­ter.

The Lib­eral Democrats are ex­pected to pick up some 500 ex­tra coun­cil seats, and Labour are ex­pected to make gains of 300 to 400. Though the num­bers look im­pres­sive, they ac­tu­ally rep­re­sent a re­turn to where the par­ties were in 2015 be­fore David Cameron se­cured a Tory majority.

There are 8,374 coun­cil seats up for grabs in Eng­land and 460 in North­ern Ireland. The Tories hold 4,628 and are con­test­ing 95 per cent of all the seats.

Ukip, which has lost mem­bers to the Brexit Party and has faced con­tro­versy over links with far-Right ac­tivist Tommy Robin­son, is con­test­ing just 16 per cent of seats.

Tory elec­tion ex­pert Rob Hay­ward said the party was on course for its worst drub­bing since 1995, when Tony Blair crushed John Ma­jor’s di­vided govern­ment.

The Tories are also ex­pected to fare badly in the Euro­pean elec­tions, which could rep­re­sent a greater chal­lenge to Theresa May.

Yes­ter­day’s YouGov sur­vey of 1,630 Bri­tons for The Times put Mr Farage’s party up two points since last week. His for­mer party Ukip was trail­ing on four per cent – down one point on the pre­vi­ous week.

In a wor­ry­ing sign for Mrs May of dis­con­tent within her own ranks, 52 per cent of those who voted Con­ser­va­tive in the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion said they would back the Brexit Party in the Euro elec­tions.

Dis­con­tent in the ranks

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