"Abnormal" Numbers of Local Tories Have Distanced Themselves From Boris Johnson
3 min read
An "abnormal" number of local Conservative campaigners have distanced themselves from Boris Johnson and the national party in the run-up to Thursday's elections, according to a polling expert.
Lord Robert Hayward, who is also a Tory peer, told this week's episode of PoliticsHome's podcast The Rundown that "political distancing" had been a strikingly common feature of Conservative campaigning ahead of voters going to polling stations across the country today.
This week there have been reports of Conservative campaigners at local level excluding any mention of Johnson and the Tory government from their election material, while The Times reported that some candidates had implored voters to not "punish" them for "mistakes made in Westminster".
The government is bracing itself for significant losses in local elections across the UK amid the cost of living crisis and the ongoing partygate scandal. The first results will be announced in the early hours of Friday morning.
"There's no question that it is an abnormal amount of distancing," Hayward told PoliticsHome.
"We're used to social distancing, now there's political distancing away from Boris and Westminster to whatever the local communities are."
He said "large numbers of Tory MPs and Tory councillors" had endured a "rough ride over Boris' leadership" while out canvassing, and predicted that this experience will lead more Conservative MPs to submit more letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee.
"What I noticed before the elections break [recess] was that people were moving towards a willingness to criticise Boris," Hayward continued.
"Whether they started off as strong Boris supporters and they had moved a bit, or whether they were strong Boris critics and they had moved, they were all moving roughly in the same direction".
He added that a poor set of results on Thursday would be one of several issues that piles the pressure on the Prime Minister's leadership, along with the possibility of further partygate fines from the Met Police, the Sue Gray report into lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street and Whitehall, and upcoming by-elections in Wakefield and and Tiverton and Honiton.
Hayward said that while he expected Labour to make significant gains, there were also "big questions" over Keir Starmer's leadership of the Labour party and whether he manages to make up enough ground in the north and Midlands, where the party haemorrhaged votes at the last general election.
- Lord Hayward's full interview on what to look out for in the 5th May local election results can be heard on The Rundown podcast from PoliticsHome, out Thursday evening wherever you get your podcasts.
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