Tories could lose up to 30 seats to Liberal Democrats at next election, secret polling reveals

Internal polling shows the party losing all its 2015 gains in south London and South West England

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 06 April 2017 00:35 BST
Tories may lose 27 seats to Lib Dems if they could to polls tomorrow
Tories may lose 27 seats to Lib Dems if they could to polls tomorrow

The Conservative party could lose nearly 30 seats to the Liberal Democrats at the next election, it has been reported.

Private polling by the party has found their former coalition partners could be on track to regain all the 27 seats they lost in 2015 – including all their gains in south London and most of the former Lib Dem strongholds of Cornwall and Devon.

The Australian election strategist who masterminded the Tory campaign, Lynton Crosby, is said to have personally told Theresa May the bad news following speculation that there may be an early election, the New Statesman reported.

Last month several West Country MPs warned No 10 that their seats were at risk if Ms May decided to call a snap election after triggering Article 50.

Many thought Ms May might decide to call an early election to capitalise on the weakness of the Labour party, which is currently trailing 18 points behind the Tories in the opinion polls.

The party has been embroiled in an 18-month civil war over the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader and his weak response to Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism among his hard left allies.

With Labour in disarray, some have speculated it could lose up to 100 seats at the next election.

The party suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Copeland by-election in February where it failed to keep hold of a seat that had been under the party's control since 1935.

Meanwhile, the Tories are facing the looming spectre of the fallout from the probe into its election expenses.

It was fined a record £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for reportedly getting around spending limits on local constituency races by declaring costs as parts of the national campaign.

The Commission has referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police. If the results in up to 20 key marginal constituencies are annulled the Conservatives could decide to declare a fresh election rather than run several embarrassing by-elections.

The Lib Dems are poised to make a comeback just one election cycle after their disastrous defeat in 2015 where they saw their 57 MPs reduced to a rump of just eight.

They are now up to double figures in national polling and have doubled their membership to 87,000.

Ms May currently has a working majority of just 17 so if the Lib Dems were to increase their numbers in the Commons she could face the possibility of being forced into another coalition.

Tories hope that if Ms May waits until 2020 before triggering an election, Remainers’ anger over Brexit should subside as the country will have already left the union.

But if the negotiations stall, or the country enters a deep recession on the back of leaving the single market, voters may decide to punish the Tories.

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