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How the Tories plan to minimise election losses

Conservative MPs and candidates are pushing to minimise the party’s election losses by carrying out a hyper-local campaign which focusses on specific issues and plays down Rishi Sunak’s leadership.

Multiple MPs seeking re-election have told i they are more optimistic in their own area than national polling would suggest – but none are putting the Tory leader at the centre of their campaign.

While very few Conservatives say their party has a chance of winning the election on 4 July, most think the overall result will be closer than the wipeout scenario that many polls appear to predict.

One veteran MP said: “I’m just carrying on doing what I’m doing, people know what I stand for and what I’m about.

“It’s either going to be a massive landslide and we are all f**ked, or I will hang on because of what I’ve done here. I do think that people want a change, but they don’t know what they want to change to.”

A minister added: “There is a lot of ‘undecided’ who have no love for Starmer or Labour and are bemused by the election in the round. My greatest worry is low turnout.”

Former Labour voters who backed Brexit and supported Boris Johnson in 2019 “don’t want to return to the Labour fold”, the minister said, continuing: “Will they vote Reform? Maybe.”

Some campaigners are openly telling voters that Labour will form the next government and that they should therefore send a Tory MP to Westminster to provide a strong opposition.

A Conservative activist said: “I’ve found it has been very effective telling wavering Conservative voters that we’re going to get a Labour government, so do they want a Labour MP that just does as they’re told and goes along with the government, or do they want a Conservative MP that stands up for their area. When I say that, nine out of ten recommit to voting Conservative.”

An MP said that “the doors are more positive than the polls”, predicting that the Tories would win around 100 seats – but added: “Losing 150-plus seats is still really shite.”

Johnny Mercer, the Veterans Minister, told Times Radio that Mr Sunak’s decision to leave D-day commemorations early to resume election campaigning “comes up at time” in conversations with voters.

He added: “It is really tough going. When you’ve been in power for fourteen years and things haven’t been going your way and the tide is heavily against you, it’s really hard on the doors.

“It’s very hard out on the doors and the polling is very much against us. When you come home and see the media, morale plummets.”

Seperately, some Tories have given up following the start of the election campaign and the Prime Minister’s bruising appearance on Sky News’ leader debate.

It has prompted claims that the Conservative leader and his inner circle have abandoned the idea of winning the election and have instead pivoted their campaign to limiting the size of Labour’s majority.

The faltering campaign coincides with Nigel Farage’s Reform UK leapfrogging the Conservatives in one YouGov poll and a complete failure from the Tories to make a dent in Labour’s 20-point lead.

A new survey by BMG for i also revealed 46 per cent of Conservative voters want some sort of co-operation between the two parties.

It has led to a significant increase in campaign messaging from CCHQ urging voters not to hand Labour and Sir Keir Starmer a historic majority.

One CCHQ insider told i that while there had not been an explicit instruction to shift campaign strategy, there was “evidence that it is a new message”.

Election 2024

Rishi Sunak, Sir Keir Starmer and other party leaders are on the campaign trail, and i‘s election live blog is the go-to place for everything on the general election.

On Monday, the Lib Dems launched their manifesto, followed by the Tory manifesto launch on Tuesday, which included a further cut to national insurance. On Wednesday, the Green Party launched its manifesto, which it hopes will secure them some important seats.

Labour’s manifesto launch on Thursday was interrupted by a protester urging for more policies for youth, but Starmer was undeterred as he announced changes to voting age and confirmed his party’s position on tax and spending cuts.

i has urged the parties to commit to its Save Britain’s Rivers manifesto to improve our waterways. The Lib Dems became the first to back the campaign, followed by the Green Party.

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