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Leading Pollster Says Scotland Is A “Worry” For Boris Johnson In May’s Local Elections

Leading Pollster Says Scotland Is A “Worry” For Boris Johnson In May’s Local Elections


3 min read

Leading pollster Sir John Curtice has said the Torys' position as the “voice of unionism” in Scotland could be under threat following the local elections in May.

The University of Strathclyde professor, who is also a Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Social Research, told PoliticsHome’s podcast The Rundown, out Friday, that “partygate” had played a significant role in the falling fortunes of the Tories in Scotland.

“The one place that [Boris Johnson] has to worry about is Scotland. In Scotland, all the council's seats are up for grabs,” Curtice explained. 

He said the difficulty for the Conservatives was that the local elections north of the border had last been held six weeks before the 2017 General Election, when the party had done well both locally and nationally.

“The polling during the course of the last three, four or five months… has been showing the Conservatives, not only well down on their position five years ago, but actually also trailing behind Labour," he continued. 

“There is a possibility that, for the first time since 2016, that the Labour Party might come second [in Scotland], both in votes and in seats in the local elections."

He added that Conservative position as the “hitherto as the undisputed principle voice of unionism north of the border” could be under threat if they came third in the May polls. 

Chris Curtis, head of polling at Opinium, agreed that Johnson would face his biggest challenge in May in Scottish councils. 

He told The Rundown podcast that he believed Labour was on track for a “comfortable second place” in Scotland, while the Conservatives faced a “difficult” campaign in the wake of the partygate scandal, which led Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross to call for Johnson's resignation.

“How do a group of people who said the Prime Minister should resign a few months ago turn around and go, actually, he shouldn't resign, and also, you should vote for us? It's gonna be incredibly difficult for them to fight,” he said.

Ross was among the most vocal Conservative critics of Johnson following reports that lockdown-breaking parties were held in Downing Street and Whitehall.

However, he announced in March that he had withdrawn his letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, saying it wasn’t appropriate to be discussing leadership challenges while conflict was going on in Ukraine. 

According to a recent Survation Poll for Ballot Box Scotland, the SNP are on track for a record result in May’s council elections, taking 44% of first preference votes in the nation’s proportional system. 

Only 6% said they’d back the Tories, down one point from the previous election, while 23% said they’d back Labour, up three points from 2017.

  • Click here to listen to the latest episode of The Rundown, or search for 'PoliticsHome' wherever you get your podcasts.
  • The Rundown is a new podcast from PoliticsHome. Every Friday, our reporters are joined by the biggest names in Westminster to unpick this week’s politics.

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