EXCL Tory MEP warns party will be 'annihilated' and candidates feel 'abandoned' as voters head to the polls
A Tory MEP has said the party will be “annihilated” in Thursday's European elections as he hit out at the party for having "abandoned" its candidates.
Sajjad Karim, a Conservative North West MEP and top candidate for the region, laid bare the “reality” of the campaign, warning the party “will live to regret” its decision to go ahead with the democratic exercise.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, Mr Karim said he was fighting for every vote in the North West “virtually single-handedly”.
He said: “It was pretty much a case of sending in the foot soldiers and then the generals abandoned the battlefield.
“As soon as the party hierarchy had abandoned the field, it was quite clear those that were supposed to be backing us up on the battlefield all abandoned as well, and the candidates were all left there looking for where the next round of bullets was going to come from.
“We will be annihilated, the Conservative party will be annihilated tomorrow.”
His stark warning comes as voters head to the polls to select their representatives in the EU Parliament, despite the Government’s promise the UK would have left the European Union before needing to take part in the 23 May process.
Polling stations open from 7am to 10pm across the UK today to elect 73 MEPs.
Results are expected to be announced on Sunday evening once all European voters have finished casting their ballots.
'LIVE TO REGRET'
Earlier this month, the Conservatives felt the wrath of voters as they lost 1,330 councillors in England in the local elections, with the final YouGov/Times poll going into the EU-wide election putting Nigel Farage's newly-formed Brexit Party on 37%, with the Tories a distant fifth on just 7%.
The Liberal Democrats garnered 19% of the vote, with Labour on 13% and the Greens on 12%. Fellow pro-Remain outfit Change UK is on 4% in the YouGov study.
“I think a conscious decision was made that these elections were not going to be fought at all, I think it’s a decision the party will live to regret,” Mr Karim - an MEP of 15 years - told PoliticsHome.
He added: “I’ve never fought as hard for anything in my life as I’m fighting this campaign but I’m doing it as an individual MEP trying to maintain as much of the party’s standing as I possibly can in the North West, virtually single-handedly.
“I think the party should have fought this election hard. On the one hand it’s claiming it’s the only party left that can deliver Brexit and on the other hand it’s abandoning a European national election.
“You cannot have it both ways.”
The MEP, who campaigned to Remain in the EU, predicted that the Brexit Party would pick up Ukip's three seats in the North West, and that both the Tories and Labour would be punished for their stances on leaving the EU.
He said: “I think Brexit party are going to lead the polls, Labour is going to get smashed, we’re going to get annihilated. The parties that are providing clarity to people are the ones who are going to do well…
“However, we and the Labour party are going to be absolutely smashed because people do not know what on earth it is that we are doing.
“And when one looks at our national politics it becomes abundantly clear the two main parties are not willing to compromise and equally neither are they willing to put forward a very clear agenda of exactly what they’re going to do that they can deliver to people.”
While the Lancashire-born, believes a further referendum could be a way to break the parliamentary deadlock, he is steadfast on staying in his imploding party arguing that "traditional Conservative, constructively-engaged" must not "desert" the Tories.
“Much to the contrary, we cannot give up this space now," he added. "It would just be an absolute disaster.”
“IT’S STILL ALL TO PLAY FOR”
But West Midlands Tory MEP Anthea McIntyre said she thought the party had done “extremely well” in challenging election circumstances.
“Given that this election was not expected or wanted - or budgeted for - I think the party has done extremely well,” the region’s number one candidate said.
“It was always going to be difficult, but we have sensibly concentrated on getting out our core vote.
“That has meant a lot of telephone canvassing, which has been effective but not very visible.”
Speaking from Lincolnshire, East Midlands Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin meanwhile admitted the campaign had been “pretty tough” with a lot of angry voters tired of the Brexit debate.
As a Brexit campaigner, she said “no-one is more surprised than me” to be bidding to return to Brussels for a third term.
But she urged caution on polls predicting that the Tories are headed for a heavy loss.
Ms McClarkin said: “I think it really depends in these elections on the turnout.
"Is everybody that’s upset going to come and turn out and actually vote? Will lots of people stay at home? And those who do come out, who are they going to be voting for? I think it’s all to play for, it’s still up in the air.
“There will certainly be those who want to send a message to the Conservatives, but I hope I will be able to make it back for the East Midlands region.”