Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Could a 1997-style wipeout spell the end of the Tories?

There is not a crumb of comfort for the Conservatives in the YouGov poll splashed across the front of this morning’s Daily Telegraph. It forecasts that the Tories will lose 196 seats in the coming general election, a bigger slump than the party suffered in 1997, 1945 or 1929. This would represent the second-worst defeat in the party’s history, after Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal landslide in 1906. Sir Keir Starmer would be looking at a majority of around 120.

The poll suggests election night, whenever it comes, will serve up a steady stream of Portillo moments, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, and Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt all set to lose their seats. Unfortunately for the Tories, it appears to be a robust piece of research that uses multi-level regression and post-stratification, the method that accurately predicted the 2017 and 2019 election results.

This would represent the second-worst defeat in the party’s history

Writing over at ConservativeHome, Paul Goodman notes that the poll was commissioned by an outfit calling itself the Conservative Britain Alliance, which is ‘working with Lord Frost’. Goodman thinks it’s an attempt by the right to bounce Number 10 into toughening up the Rwanda Bill, which will have its third reading this week. That may well be the case but the tactical use to which the research is being put does not invalidate the research itself.

And it purports to show 96 Tory-held seats which will be lost on account of Reform’s presence on the ballot. The Thatcherite party, led by Richard Tice, has been talking up its challenge to the Conservatives on immigration. Remove Reform from the equation and the Tories win enough seats to deny Labour an overall majority. Reform, in its previous guise as the Brexit Party, cut deals in 2019 to stand aside in seats where the Tory incumbent was pro-Brexit.

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