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