The debate about whether Rishi Sunak’s Tories are heading for a 1992-style against-the-odds narrow election win or a 1997-style landslide defeat is pretty much settled now: it’s the latter.
A terrible few months for Sunak had been pointing that way in any case, but now a huge political data-dump has confirmed it. YouGov’s giant opinion survey and analysis, with a sample size of 14,000, published overnight in the Daily Telegraph estimates that the party is heading for 169 seats and that Labour will have a majority of around 120.
But for the Tories there is much more scope on the downside than the upside as regards this finding. To reach its Tory seat estimate, the YouGov team has assumed a degree of poll tightening will take place between now and election day, reapportioned the many ‘don’t knows’ in its sample in a way favourable to the Tories, assumed there will be no Lib-Lab tactical voting and also that Nigel Farage will not return to spearhead the Reform party’s election campaign.
All of these assumptions may prove unjustifiably lenient on Sunak’s party, meaning that it is now possible to envisage a Tory parliamentary party returning in November of a size that could fit on a London double-decker bus.
As the former Downing Street pollster James Johnson makes clear in his commentary on the poll findings, there is no doubt that Sunak’s handling of immigration, both legal and illegal, is at the heart of a huge haemorrhaging of support among 2019 Conservative voters.
And yet there are still scores of Tory MPs from among the 106-strong One Nation group who contend that the Rwanda Bill, which returns to the Commons this week, must not be toughened up because it is already at the outer limit of our obligations under international law.