At least five important government ministers and several well-known Conservative MPs are facing the risk of losing their seats in the upcoming election unless there’s a significant change in public opinion.
Labour’s resurgence: echoes of 1997
According to a recent BMG survey for the i newspaper, the Labour Party is currently ahead of the Conservative Party by 15 percentage points. This could potentially lead to Keir Starmer winning the next general election by a wide margin, similar to Tony Blair’s victory in 1997. If this shift in voter preference were replicated across the country, several high-profile Conservatives would lose their seats.
Facing a potential wipe-out, Tory MPs have urged Rishi Sunak to be less cautious and outline a compelling vision for voters and a reshuffle of his top team as soon as possible. In response, Sunak will unveil his political vision in the coming months. He’s promised that bold actions would be taken to improve the country’s long-term future and trajectory, although he faces severe economic headwinds. Inflation is set to rise again, and the Bank of England is likely to increase interest rates to combat it, while Brexit continues to be a drag on GDP.
Dorries’s scathing resignation letter
However, no one in the ranks of the Tory party has been more outspokenly critical of Sunak than Nadine Dorries, after she finally resigned at the weekend. Her letter to Sunak was scathing, asking, “What exactly has been done or have you achieved?” She accused him of presiding over a “zombie parliament” and of “completely abandoning” Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto.
She listed his failures as she sees them: “Levelling up has been discarded and with it, those deprived communities it sought to serve. Social care, ready to be launched, abandoned along with the hope of all of those who care for the elderly and the vulnerable. The Online Safety Bill has been watered down. BBC funding reform, the clock run down. The Mental Health Act, timed out. Defence spending, reduced. Our commitment to net zero, animal welfare and the green issues so relevant to the planet and voters under 40, squandered.”
While less critical of their leader, Tory MPs have also expressed concern over this and other survey results, which have consistently put Labour well ahead of the Tories since last autumn. Conducted last week, the BMG survey indicates that 44% of the public would vote Labour in a general election, while only 29% would choose the Conservatives, and 10% the Liberal Democrats. These findings are consistent with other recent surveys and suggest a substantial victory for Keir Starmer. BMG stated that if these results were replicated in a general election, Labour could secure a significant majority of nearly 400 seats, while the Conservatives could end up with fewer than 200.
Senior ministers may lose seats
An electoral model created by Electoral Calculus also suggests that this outcome could result in the defeat of five Cabinet ministers if the shift from the Conservatives to the other two major parties were uniform across all constituencies.
Alongside Energy Secretary Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield, other ministers who could lose their seats to a Labour candidate are Transport Secretary Mark Harper, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt and Greg Hands, the Conservative Party chairman. Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, could lose his seat to the LibDems. These predictions are based on the new constituency boundaries scheduled to take effect at the next general election.
Additionally, several junior ministers, including prominent figures like leading Brexiteer Steve Baker and Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer, might also face electoral defeat. Backbenchers who could lose their parliamentary seats include Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers.
These poll predictions invite comparison with the 1997 election, which included the infamous “Portillo Moment” when Michael Portillo, along with six other cabinet ministers, were defeated. Since then, the only cabinet members to lose their seats were LibDem ministers in the party’s near wipe-out in 2015.
In addition to these electoral challenges, two MPs in the East of England, Jonathan Djanogly in Huntingdon and Richard Bacon in South Norfolk, have been deselected by their local Conservative Associations, while Matt Hancock in West Suffolk was urged to step down by his association after losing the whip.
Other MPs in the region who have chosen not to stand for re-election are:
Chloe Smith in Norwich North
Will Quince in Colchester
Charles Walker in Broxbourne
Sir Mike Penning in Hemel Hempstead
Stephen McPartland in Stevenage.
Last week, it was announced that severance pay for departing MPs will be doubled to over £19,000. Former MPs who are stepping down or who lose their seat will receive the equivalent of four months’ salary instead of the current two, while closing their offices and managing staff departures.