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'We have a plan': Grant Shapps dismisses poll suggesting Tories face 1997-style electoral wipeout
15 January 2024, 08:37 | Updated: 15 January 2024, 08:40
The Tories "have a plan", Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted as he dismissed a fresh poll predicting a 1997-style electoral wipeout.
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A YouGov poll involving 14,000 respondents indicates that Rishi Sunak's Tories might retain as few as 169 seats, allowing Sir Keir Starmer's Labour to assume power with 385 seats.
But Mr Shapps argued that the government has had to make a lot of difficult decisions due to Covid and war in Europe.
"We have a plan and we're working through that plan," Mr Shapps told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.
"You've seen how inflation has tumbled, how the economy has been growing even though all the predictions were that it would shrink and now you're getting tax reductions because we've done that difficult stuff."
"You've got to allow time for that to work through," he said.
Mr Shapps went on to accuse Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of sitting on the sidelines and "sniping away".
"This government is working to a plan that it is starting to work - I think we'll see it work a lot more in the months to come - compared with no plan under Keir Starmer.
"He sits on the sidelines, he snipes away, and we'd be right back to square one with Labour and Keir Starmer."
The seat-by-seat poll suggests that every red wall seat won from Labour by Boris Johnson in 2019 would be lost, while the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, would be one of eleven cabinet ministers to lose their seats.
The poll, published in the Telegraph, found that the Tories would win 196 fewer seats than in 2019, more than the 178 John Major lost in 1997.
Watch Again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Defence Secretary Grant Shapps | 15/01/24
Despite not winning any seats, the polling implies that Reform UK's support would be the decisive factor in 96 Tory losses.
The SNP would also experience setbacks.
The research was commissioned by a group of Tory donors from the Conservative Britain Alliance and backed by the former Brexit minister Lord Frost. He claimed that the only way to avoid the likely defeat was “to be as tough as it takes on immigration”.
Concerns within the Conservative Party regarding their electoral prospects under Mr Sunak are likely to intensify. Simon Clarke, a former Cabinet minister under Liz Truss, expressed that the outcome would be a "disaster."
"The time for half measures is over," he wrote on social media. "We either deliver on small boats or we will be destroyed."
The poll – obtained using the same method that has accurately predicted the results of several recent elections – will pile pressure on Mr Sunak to pivot to a far more conservative agenda as he faces a crucial vote on his Rwanda policy this week.
The PM is facing a rebellion by more than 50 of his backbenchers, who want the bill toughened up. But he has been warned by centrist MPs that they cannot vote for the bill if he gives in to the rebels.
Among other prominent Tories reportedly on track to lose their seats are Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, and Attorney General Victoria Prentis.