Labour set to suffer a total meltdown in council elections

Fresh allegations about Chancellor's expenses expected as Vince Cable calls for him to resign

Labour faces being virtually wiped off the map in the county council elections this week, marking one of the lowest points in the party's history. Last night a poll of voting intentions at the next general election put Labour in third place.

In the ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph, just 22 per cent said they intended to vote Labour, against 25 per cent for the Lib Dems and 40 for the Conservatives.

Senior Tory sources claimed last night that they are confident Labour's last remaining shire councils will fall to the Conservatives or to no overall control in polling day on Thursday.

Cabinet ministers also privately warned that the 4 June poll will be one of the worst in memory for Labour, going beyond the usual lowering of expectations by the governing party. It would leave Labour with no control of England's county council seats.

The claim by Tory officials that they could unseat Labour's grip in northern counties of Lancashire and Staffordshire, and leave Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire with no overall control, confirms the worst fears of ministers. It followed a poll in The Times yesterday suggesting Labour will come third in the European elections after the Tories and Ukip.

Meanwhile, last night's fresh expenses allegations were spread evenly between the two main parties. Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy claimed for three tins of mints and two teddy bears from the House of Commons shop; Labour MP Frank Cook, Stockton-on-Tees, claimed a £5 donation at a church service commemorating the Battle of Britain; Shadow Scottish secretary David Mundell spent £3,000 on equipment for publicity pictures; Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham Small Heath and Sparkbrook, claimed a bath mat, gardening equipment and more than £7,000 of repairs on office expenses; Tim Yeo, Tory MP for South Suffolk, claimed £900 for a pink laptop "in the weeks leading up to Christmas"; and Tory Bob Walter, MP for North Dorset, claimed more than £1,000 for handmade carpets.

And Conservative leader David Cameron faces questions of his own. The Mail on Sunday claimed he repaid a £75,000 loan on his London home – taken out six years before – shortly after taking out a £350,000 mortgage on a house in his Oxfordshire constituency, at public expense.

The election disaster that could be looming for the Prime Minister on Thursday makes it all the more likely that he will have to carry out a radical reshuffle of his Cabinet to try to reassert control. Alan Johnson, who is being urged by allies to prepare himself for an emergency Labour leadership if Mr Brown is toppled, could be promoted to Home Secretary in an effort to appease supporters, replacing Jacqui Smith who is already on the casualty list over her expenses.

Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for the Communities, is likely to pay the price for her highly critical article last month in which she ridiculed Mr Brown, although the Prime Minister has been warned by some ministers that, if sacked, she could "go nuclear" and call on him to go.

Further pressure on Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is expected this week over his expenses claims. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable called for Mr Darling to be sacked for "flipping" his second home and having tax advice paid for by public funds. In an article for The Mail on Sunday, Mr Cable wrote: "Here is the company finance director caught with his fingers in the till. He doesn't explain. He doesn't apologise. He just blames his colleagues for not stopping him. His moral authority has vanished. He must go, now." Tipped to replace Mr Darling is Ed Balls, the Prime Minister's closest aide, who is currently Secretary of State for Schools.

Mr Cable dismissed reports that he could be in line for a job in the Cabinet under Mr Brown as a blatant strategy by Downing Street to try to stabilise the Prime Minister. He added: "I would not agree to be co-opted into a Labour government in its dying days."

In a separate development, MPs who have abused their expenses could be recalled by constituents. The measure looked more likely after David Cameron said he supported the move, which is already backed by the Lib Dems and under consideration by Labour. In an interview with Sky News to be broadcast today, Mr Cameron said he supports giving voters the power to recall their MPs.

But elsewhere there were warnings that other suggestions for reform, including proportional representation, were the wrong response to the expenses scandal. In an interview with the IoS, Lord Adonis, one of the leading proponents of PR, said it was not the answer. He said: "You don't deal with flu by taking malaria tablets."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice