Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has played down the prospect of becoming “the next Portillo” at the election, as polls suggest he risks losing his seat due to tactical voting.
At the 1997 general election, Michael Portillo, then defence secretary, became a high-profile scalp and a symbol of the party’s defeat by Labour when a string of veteran Conservative MPs lost their seats.
A Deltapoll survey indicates he now only holds a five-point lead over Monica Harding, his Liberal Democrat opponent.
The Tories have held the seat since 1910 but tactical switching by Labour supporters or a higher turnout among the under-40s could hand the seat to the Lib Dems.
When Deltapoll asked how people would vote if they saw it as a contest between the Tories and Lib Dems, the two parties were tied at 48 per cent each, The Observer reported.
Mr Raab, who had a healthy majority of 23,298 at the last election, said he was “not really” worried about losing his seat but acknowledged that “with a seat like mine you never take anything for granted”.
Last month at a local hustings, he was “literally booed by half the room”, according to one constituent, and there was “continued heckling” as he gave his closing speech.
When he said the Tories would deliver a “moderate Brexit” the room erupted in laughter, The New European reported.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The polls are all fluid and all over the place, but one thing it does show you, my constituency and up and down the country, is the risk of a hung parliament and that is a very real risk if you vote any other way than Conservative.
“But we’ve got a really positive plan to get Brexit done, to get the country moving forward, and I’m confident taking that to the voters.”
Ms Harding has tweeted that suggestions Mr Raab – and even Boris Johnson – could lose their seats are “reasons to be (cautiously) cheerful” and urged constituents to vote tactically.
She also accused Mr Johnson of giving “bare-faced lies” in an interview with LBC.
Of this week’s coming Nato summit, Mr Raab said: “People can have criticisms of Nato [and] it does need to adapt, but the answer is to reform it and to strengthen it ... We certainly shouldn’t be saying it should shut up shop, which is what Jeremy Corbyn’s position is.”
Asked if there was “nervousness” over Donald Trump’s visit during the election campaign, he said: “I don’t think so. We’re proud that we’re hosting the leaders’ summit here.”
He added: “I’m not going to give succour to some of the anti-Americanism we’ve heard from some of the other parties. The US is our closest and oldest ally, we work very closely with them.”
What the Tories really want to do, he said, is “bring our European, our American friends together because we think we’re stronger when we stand shoulder to shoulder”.
Additional reporting by PA
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