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British PM Rishi Sunak’s party may face worst election defeat, new survey shows


RIshi Sunak, UK PM, Conservatives, election defeat
Image Source : REUTERS (FILE) British PM Rishi Sunak

London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party is set for the worst defeat at the national election expected this year, according to a new survey released on Wednesday, which shows the main opposition – the Labour Party – winning more than 400 seats, while the Conservatives would win slightly over 150 seats in the United Kingdom’s 650-seat parliament. The Conservatives have been in power since 2010, but have had five different PMs due to different controversies.

The YouGov model, which predicts results in individual parliamentary seats based on estimated vote share, projected that Sunak’s Conservatives would win just 155 seats and Labour would win 403 seats. Polls have consistently given Labour a double digit lead over the Conservatives, ahead of an election which Sunak has said he expects to call in the second half of the year.

“These latest results push Keir Starmer closer toward repeating a Blair-level result for Labour, a full 27 years since Labour’s longest-serving prime minister first took office. In that election, Blair won 418 out of the available 659 House of Commons seats,” reads the YouGov analysis.

The latest projection shows the Conservative Party winning fewer seats than they did in 1997, where they suffered a landslide defeat to the Labour Party led by Tony Blair by winning only 165 seats. The model also projected that Labour would fall short of the 418 seats won under Blair, with the projected 154 seat majority also less than the 179 majority it won in 1997.

At least 18,761 British adults were interviewed by YouGov from March 7 to 27 for the survey. YouGov said the  headline election result based on the model would see Labour on 41 per cent of the vote and Conservatives on 24 per cent, though cautioned that the results could look different to regular polling due to its treatment of those that do not currently have a voting intention.

Rishi Sunak’s (and the Tories’) diminishing popularity

The Conservatives have been embroiled in different controversies, ranging from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and scandal over the handling of the COVID crisis leading to continued political turmoil. The Sunak-led party has lost ten by-elections since the last general election, more than any administration since the 1960s. That includes six defeats — and one win — since Sunak took office in October 2022.

The 43-year-old British PM has struggled to restore his party’s sinking popularity despite recasting himself at various points over the past year as a bold reformer, as he is under pressure from members of his own party to offer a more right-wing conservative agenda before the election. Sunak is struggling to meet his election promises, including a vow to grow the economy and resolve the cost-of-living crisis.

The increasingly beleaguered prime minister attempts to ride out infighting within the ranks, with sections to the right of the governing Conservative Party calling for a leadership change ahead of a general election expected later in the year. With the Spring Budget earlier this month failing to turn the dial in the party’s favour and a series of high-profile exits from the Tory ranks, there is growing discontent among the Conservative backbenchers.

The poll indicated Sunak is still struggling to gain momentum after a tax-cutting budget last month and ahead of local elections in May. There are rumours that a group of Tory MPs are keen to replace Sunak with his former leadership rival and now Leader of the House of Commons in his Cabinet, Penny Mordaunt, who is poised to lose her seat, according to the YouGov poll.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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