The Conservatives could avoid ‘a massacre’ in next week’s local elections because of a ‘Rishi bounce’, pollsters claimed today.
They said the vote on May 4 would be mostly influenced by national issues and that the prime minister’s policy approach was beginning to seep through voters.
An uneasy night is still predicted for the Tories – and they look set to lose hundreds of seats in all.
But they can make a profit in some areas, with damage possibly limited to less than 1,000 losses. Some forecasters think it could be below 500.
This would be a major turnaround as the Tories’ ratings would have meant the loss of up to 2,000 seats after Liz Truss’s disastrous premiership.
Pollsters say local elections on May 4 will be mostly influenced by national issues and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s policy approach began to sink in among voters
Professor Sir John Curtice, the voting guru who correctly predicted Theresa May would lose her majority in 2017, said: ‘I don’t expect a Tory carnage. I do expect Labor to make a profit’
There are growing doubts among voters about Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, whose inability to define a woman and his perceived weakness in tackling migrant boats on the Channel have been raised as issues on the doorstep.
The party is also expected to bleed votes in the south-east over Labor mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand the capital’s clean air zone.
Hundreds of thousands of other motorists crossing the Greater London border will face a daily charge of £12.50.
Professor Sir John Curtice, the voting guru who correctly predicted Theresa May would lose her majority in 2017, said: ‘I don’t expect a Tory carnage. I do expect Labor to make a profit.
But it could well be that both Labor and the Tories are doing better in terms of votes than they were four years ago. So we are not talking about dramatic head losses for municipalities.’
He said the biggest threat to the Tories could be the Liberal Democrats, who can steal votes from Tory supporters who have been knocked out by Boris Johnson and Miss Truss.
This could happen in Surrey, Hertfordshire, Warwickshire and Cheshire.
Sir John added: ‘This year’s elections are in shire districts. About 5,000 of the approximately 8,000 seats are on the district councils.
And in many of these places, the PvdA just doesn’t register. We’re talking real rural county England, very small county councils, and if there’s a challenger, it’s the Liberal Democrats and not the Labor Party.
“Another big question is: are we getting tactical votes? Is the Conservative Party so unpopular that opposition voters will grab any local stick to hit them with?’
Predictions that the Tories would lose 1,000 seats seem “too high,” he said, amid a narrowing of polls.
The party lost 1,330 seats the last time it was contested in 2019 when the Conservatives were around 26 percent in the polls. This time the party fluctuates around 30 percent.
Polling expert and Tory colleague Lord Robert Hayward said: ‘Tory campaigners and MPs feel that Rishi is favorably referred to by people on the doorstep, and this is borne out in the opinion polls and the few by-elections that have taken place in recent weeks. .’
Opinion polls show Labor’s predicted lead in next week’s local elections narrowing somewhat
Polling excerpt and Tory colleague Lord Robert Hayward said: ‘Since he’s been leader it’s been striking how many people give the ‘don’t know’ answer in opinion polls when it comes to Keir Starmer (pictured) and Labor policies’
He also agreed that the Liberal Democrats could prove to be the Tories’ biggest threat: “All the polls show that the people most rejected by Boris and then by Liz Truss were those middle-class counties.”
“Some of those have come back (to the Tories), but the question is how many? It will be difficult for the Tories to fight the two different battles.’
But he said Labour’s lead was somewhat ‘shallow’, adding: ‘Not only is Labor already going down in the polls, but you can see there is no commitment to Labour, under Keir Starmer.
‘Since he’s been leader, it’s been striking how many people in opinion polls answer ‘don’t know’ when it comes to Keir Starmer and Labor policies.
“But before, where people were basically agnostic towards Keir, now they’re actually using negative words about him, whether it’s women and whether they have penises or flip-flopping, they’re now moving towards more negative perceptions of Keir Starmer.
“The Tories will lose guesses, they will lose a significant number of seats, but I think the indications are that it will be within the range that is considered acceptable for a governing party in the circumstances.
“The losses are offset by the Rishi bounce.”
The prime minister’s spate of successes since he entered Downing Street just over six months ago has included a new post-Brexit deal on trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, a new pact between the UK and France to ease the crossing of the Channel with tackling small boats and stabilizing the economy.
Lord Hayward said he believed the Tories could limit the loss to 800 seats in total, rather than the potential carnage of ‘up to 2,000’ after Mrs Truss’s premiership. This would be considered a “great success,” he said.
Other forecasters, such as Electoral Calculus, think the Tories could lose as many as 258 seats, with Labor winning just 408 seats and the Liberal Democrats losing 39.
Election experts Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have predicted that the Tories could lose 1,000 seats and Labor 700. However, this prediction was made when the Conservatives were slightly lower in the polls.
Research by the nonprofit organization More in Common found that the cost-of-living crisis was the number one issue for voters.
This was followed by ‘supporting the NHS’, ‘climate change and environment’, ‘asylum seekers crossing the Channel’ and ‘the war in Ukraine’.
A total of 230 local authorities in England will hold elections on May 4, with 8,057 seats contested.
The Conservatives are defending 3,365 seats, Labor 2,131, Lib Dem 1,223, Green 239, Independents 817 and other parties 282.
Polls are also taking place to elect mayors in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.
The seats being contested for this year were last in 2019, when the UK was still in the European Union, the Prime Minister was Theresa May and Labor was led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Since then, the UK has had three more Prime Ministers: Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Mr Sunak.
For the latter, next week’s contests will be his first major electoral test.