Theresa May facing grassroots backlash as Brexit Party on course to top Euro elections
Conservative activists are refusing to campaign in the European Parliament elections as the party faces the prospect of a drubbing at the hands of Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party.
One Tory council leader has said they will not try to rally support for their party in the upcoming poll, currently slated to take place on 23 May.
In comments reported by The Times, Barry Lewis, leader of the Conservative group on Derbyshire County Council, said there was mounting anger over the fact that Britain had not left the EU on 29 March as repeatedly promised.
"The prime minister said we would be out by that date countless times, so did many others in government and yet here we are racing towards the end of April and facing an increased prospect of participating in a European election in May that should not be happening," he said.
"More significant for our residents and local businesses is the fact that the uncertainty continues.”
The backlash came as a series of polls made for grim reading at Conservative HQ ahead of the planned European Parliament elections, which will have to take place next month if Theresa May cannot convince MPs to back a Brexit deal.
A third of voters (33%) told ComRes they would vote for Labour at the European polls, with the Tories just one point clear of the new Brexit Party headed up by Nigel Farage - backed by 17% of voters. Another YouGov study put the Brexit Party on 27% - compared to just 15% for the Conservatives.
One senior Tory told The Times: "The referendum was supposed to kill Ukip — what May’s done over the last two weeks has dug up the corpse and put Farage’s face on it."
Conservative MPs meanwhile told The Telegraph that they had received an angry reaction from voters on the doorstep over recess - with one telling the paper: "The voters are not very happy with Theresa. It’s become quite personal towards her. Some of the things being said were really quite horrible."
Another said constituents had returned local election polling cards to the council in protest, while others were "too angry to listen".
They said: "Disgusted voters have been sending their polling cards back and others have been ringing up the elections officer asking: 'What’s the point?'"
John Strafford of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy said: “I'm getting reports from all over the place saying it’s absolutely dire. I reckon 90 per cent of Tories will vote for the Brexit Party at the Euros and the evidence I’m getting is that they are stopping canvassing for the locals."