Frantic final 24 hours ahead of local elections that could break Boris: Ministers warn of ‘carnage’ in southern heartlands as Labour and Lib Dems go on the attack
- Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer making frantic last push ahead of local elections
- Voters are choosing thousands of councillors across the country tomorrow
- Results could decide the PM’s fate as Tories mull a coup after the Partygate row
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer are in the midst of a frantic final 24 hours of campaigning before local elections that could decide the PM’s fate.
Mr Johnson and the Labour leader will tour key battlegrounds as they brace for the verdict of voters in councils across the country.
Polls have suggested that the Tories are on course for a drubbing, potentially losing 500 seats, as MPs mull whether to mount a coup bid in the wake of the Partygate scandal.
Cabinet ministers have been raising alarm at the prospect of ‘carnage in Surrey in Oxfordshire’ as the Lib Dems stage a revival at the government’s expense.
Meanwhile, Scotland looks grim for the Conservatives, with the SNP again dominating and Labour set to push them into third place.
However, noises coming out of London suburbs and key Red Wall areas have been less gloomy.
Mr Johnson could be saved by the fact that the seats being contested largely date from 2018, when Labour performed very strongly – meaning the scope for losses is limited.
Although the premier has been repeatedly roasted over his fine for breaching lockdown rules, Sir Keir has also been struggling to fend off questions about his own actions.
Allegations have surfaced that Sir Keir ordered £200 of curry for up to 30 aides at around 10pm during a visit to Durham last year. He was pictured drinking beer at the gathering, but insists they were working.
Boris Johnson (right) and Keir Starmer (left) are touring key battlegrounds as they brace for the verdict of voters in councils across the country
Research for Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now suggested the Tories will struggle in the 201 councils holding ballots this week
One Cabinet minister told the Spectator that they expect the weekend’s headlines will be about a ‘Blue Wall meltdown’ and ‘carnage in Surrey and Oxfordshire’.
‘Things are particularly bad in Scotland, bad in London, not great in the South West, but in the Red Wall marginals the mood is not that bad,’ one loyalist minister said.
However, Opinium’s Chris Curtis has joined experts cautioning about overestimating the likely scale of Tory losses.
‘On the headline numbers, I just don’t think we’re heading for a high number of losses — we’re talking considerably fewer than 500,’ he told the Financial Times.
‘Labour is now slightly ahead of the Tories in voting intention polls, compared to a neck-and-neck result when these seats were last fought in 2018, but that isn’t enough of a change for a dramatic upset.’
In a bruising interview with Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, Sir Keir repeatedly insisted the group had been at work in Durham last year.
He also finally confirmed that police have not been in touch about the event, after dodging answering yesterday.
But Sir Keir looked distinctly uncomfortable as he failed to deny that there had been dozens of people present.
He stressed that the group had been ‘on the road’ for elections last year, and were still working even though it was around 10pm.
Mr Johnson will today hope to move on from his own showdown on GMB yesterday.
The PM was confronted with the example of pensioner Elsie, whose energy costs in her council flat have risen from £17 to £85 a month.
Reid told the premier that she now ‘uses her freedom bus pass to stay on buses all day to avoid using energy at home’.
Extraordinarily, Mr Johnson replied by saying he had brought in the free bus pass that Elsie was using – even though in fact the benefit had been introduce years before he was London Mayor.
In the No10 interview, Susanna Reid told how Elsie leaves home early and rides buses using a freedom pass, which allows the over-60s on London unlimited travel, in order to not have to heat her flat.
Speaking to LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, Reid said: ‘I’ve spoken to Elsie, since the interview this morning with the Prime Minister, and she says how disappointed she is with what he said.
‘Because she says there are people who are even worse off than she is, and there was no answer for them, apart from ‘oh I was the person who was responsible for the bus pass,’ I mean, as if she’s supposed to be grateful.’
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George Eustice said in a round of interviews this morning that Elsie should be asking for money from her local council rather than riding buses.
‘Well, my advice would be that, you know, not to stay on a on a bus all day to try and stay warm,’ he told Sky News.
‘My advice would be to seek some support from the local authority.’
Mr Eustice also sparked a backlash by suggested people should buy more value brands to help save money amid the cost-of-living crisis.
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