Boris on the brink as Blue Wall set for knife-edge local election battle against Lib Dems

Boris Johnson ‘ticking a lot of boxes’ says Robinson

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Boris Johnson and his Chancellor Rishi Sunak were dealt a major blow last week after the pair were issued with fixed penalty notices following the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Hillman investigation into ‘partygate’. Bournemouth East’s Tory MP Tobias Ellwood has even warned the Prime Minister that his days in Downing Street could be numbered if he leads the Conservative Party to an electoral drubbing in the upcoming local elections on May 5. 

The Tories are poised to do poorly and suffer more than 800 net losses, according to a study conducted by polling experts at Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now.

Wards across 146 council areas in England will go up for grabs in less than three weeks, including many in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’.

Woking, a Remain-voting constituency which has been represented by a Conservative MP in the House of Commons since its creation in 1950, could see the Liberal Democrats become the largest party on the borough council just two years after the Tories lost overall control.

Ten out of 30 council seats will be contested in Woking on May 5, with the Tories and Liberal Democrats fighting tooth-and-nail for every vote.

The Conservatives are currently in pole position with 13 councillors, the Liberal Democrats are in a close second on 12, the Labour Party is in a distant third on three and two councillors were elected as independents.

However, local Liberal Democrat activists are quietly confident they can take control of Woking for the first time since 1996.

The leafy ward of Horsell, which was described by Liberal Democrat council leader and ex-parliamentary candidate Will Forster as a “traditional Tory” area, is now on a knife-edge with Sir Ed Davey’s party determined to emulate the inroads made in the 2021 local elections.

Several voters on this sunny Surrey day shared with their thoughts on Mr Johnson, ‘partygate’ and the upcoming local elections.

Paul, who described himself as a lifelong Conservative, said he “definitely” would not be voting for the Tories in the local elections or the next general election following ‘partygate’.

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Angela, who confessed to having voted Tory once before, appeared determined to keep the Conservatives out this time around.

She said: “Just not the Tories.”

However, other voters suggested they were turning away from the Conservative Party over other issues, including the cost of living.

Sue said: “I think it’s partly ‘partygate’ but it’s just everything, the price, everything like that, it’s going up.”

Prices have soared across the UK after inflation hit 7 percent in March and the average British household is also estimated to be paying an extra £693 in energy bills after the price cap was raised on April 1.

Sandip, who told he was unsure whether he would vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat on May 5, cited concern about the 1.25 percent National Insurance increase as the main reason he was now a wavering voter.

An opinion poll conducted by the Liberal Democrats also suggests recent tax increases could pose a problem for the Tory Party in the ‘Blue Wall’.

A Savanta ComRes survey from March found that almost one-in-four voters were less likely to vote for a Conservative candidate in the upcoming local elections following the National Insurance increase, including one-in-five Tory supporters.

Speaking about the shift in the ‘Blue Wall’, Twickenham MP Munira Wilson told “Voters across the country simply can’t stomach this Conservative Government any longer.

“Every day is a drip-feed of scandal, incompetence and tax hikes.

“Blue Wall voters are rightly turning their back on an out of touch Government.

“The Blue Wall is crumbling before Boris Johnson’s eyes. He is taking people for granted.

“What is the point in voting for a Prime Minister who spends most of his time just trying to save his own job amid endless scandals?

“It is clear the joke is not funny anymore and Boris Johnson is not fit to govern Britain.”

However, concerns about the Prime Minister’s electability do not appear to be emulated in the so-called ‘Red Wall’.

Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, who was appointed as a parliamentary private secretary in February, claimed: “The message I am still hearing on the doorstep is that people support the Prime Minister and they want us to concentrate on the cost of living, energy bills and the war in Ukraine.

“The new plans to tackle illegal immigration and people smugglers by working with Rwanda has gone down very well.

“Many people here are welcoming to those in need, as they have shown by opening their homes to Ukrainians, but they also believe in fairness and won’t tolerate those who abuse our goodwill and jump the queue.

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“Labour have no solutions to these issues, which is why he is still very much the ‘Heineken PM’, who reaches the parts of this country that others can’t.”

However, it was also not all doom and gloom for the Tories in the seat of Woking.

Jajuk, a loyal Conservative voter and supporter of the Prime Minister, said: “It’s a difficult job and I know he’s got his faults but nobody can do this job like Boris.”

Chris, a self-proclaimed Brexiteer, said that even though he intends to vote Liberal Democrat on May 5, the Conservative Party can rely on his backing in the next general election.

He said: “‘Partygate’ hasn’t made much difference as we all know what Boris is like anyway.”

When asked whether Mr Johnson should remain as Prime Minister, Chris added: “I think he should. One of the problems is trying to think of anyone who could take his place.”

He also took aim at the “chopping-and-turning” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, including over his stance on trans issues.

Chris said: “Boris came out with a good thing on what a woman is but Keir Starmer couldn’t answer it.”

However, the Labour Party are also hoping to take the Tories to task in the ‘Blue Wall’.

Speaking at Labour’s local election launch about the “political earthquake” which could happen in the seaside town of Worthing, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves told “I don’t think it’s just in places like Worthing but Worthing is a key one because we are neck-and-neck here on the council at the moment so it’s a critical battleground for the local elections in May.”

But a senior Government insider has warned that while opposition parties can expect the Tories to sustain losses in May, Mr Johnson will have the opportunity to bounce back from ‘partygate’ before the next general election.

The source told “The local elections will certainly be very, very tough, they’re not going to be great and I think everyone is aware of that.

“I think, however, now we are through Covid, hopefully once and for all, Boris is really now starting to crack on and it has really put the burners behind him.”

The source also claimed Mr Johnson’s recent energy strategy announcement, the Government’s Rwanda immigration policy and the Prime Minister’s “world-leading” response to the invasion of Ukraine has helped demonstrate that Mr Johnson has “got the big calls right”.

He also suggested that the decisions could “see him home” at the next general election.

Looking ahead to 2024, the insider added: “If we can have four or five other big moments before the next election, then there’s all to play for.”

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