At least five Cabinet ministers and multiple other well-known Conservatives MPs are on course to lose their seats at the next election unless the polls dramatically improve, i can reveal.
A BMG survey puts Labour 15 percentage points ahead of the Tories, putting Sir Keir Starmer in line for a landslide similar to that won by Tony Blair in 1997.
If that swing between the two main parties were replicated across the country, top Conservatives including Grant Shapps, Penny Mordaunt and Mark Harper would all be ejected from the House of Commons.
Tory MPs warned that the “sobering” findings emphasised the need for Rishi Sunak to set out a positive vision to voters and get on with a reshuffle of his top team as soon as possible.
The poll carried out by BMG last week showed that 44 per cent of the public would vote Labour at a general election with 29 per cent preferring the Conservatives and 10 per cent opting for the Liberal Democrats.
The findings are roughly in line with most other recent surveys and suggest Sir Keir would win a hefty victory. BMG said: “If there were to be a general election with this result, it would give Labour a landslide majority of 1997 proportions, with Labour on close to 400 seats and the Conservatives on less than 200.”
A computer model built by Electoral Calculus suggests that this result would lead to the defeat of five Cabinet ministers, if the swing from the Tories to the other two main parties were identical in every constituency.
Transport Secretary Mr Harper, the Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt, Energy Secretary Mr Shapps and Greg Hands, the Conservative party chairman would all be defeated by Labour. Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, would lose his seat to the Liberal Democrats. The findings are based on the new constituency boundaries which take effect from next year.
A number of junior ministers, including high-profile figures such as leading Brexiteer Steve Baker and veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer, would also be defeated. Backbenchers likely to lose their parliamentary seats include Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa Villiers.
Any such outcome would draw further comparisons to 1997, when seven Cabinet ministers including most famously Michael Portillo were all ejected from the Commons. Since that election, the only members of the Cabinet to lose were Lib Dem ministers who suffered in the party’s near-wipeout in 2015.
A Conservative former minister said the poll findings were “sobering”, adding: “It should encourage No 10 to do whatever reshuffle it wants now to show some sort of grip. People want purpose and vision and grip – the window in which to show any of that is closing rapidly.”
Another senior backbencher warned that Mr Sunak was failing to narrow the gap between the Tories and Labour, saying: “The polls are not shifting, they are not twitching. It’s nothing to do with Labour being good – it’s just that people think they need a change. We are going to be losing a lot of seats at the next election to Labour when that swing happens. The only thing you can do is hope you’ve done enough to hang on.”
The MP suggested that as well as the ministers who are set to lose their seats under a uniform national swing, Cabinet members such as Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Michelle Donelan could all be defeated by a targeted local campaign from the Liberal Democrats.
The Prime Minister has promised to expand on his political vision over the coming months following complaints he is too cautious. Mr Sunak told the Sunday Express: “Over the course of the autumn, you are going to see bold action from this Prime Minister on some things that are not easy but will change the long-term future and trajectory of our country for the better.”
Big names who are under threat
If the Conservatives do suffer an election defeat on the scale currently suggested by polling – with 150 or more MPs losing their seats – it is inevitable that the victims will include a large number of senior ministers and well-known backbenchers.
The Electoral Calculus model transferring nationwide poll results to individual constituencies pinpoints the ‘big beasts’ who are most at risk.
Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, has the smallest majority of any Cabinet minister. His margin of victory over the Liberal Democrats in his Cheltenham constituency was just 981 at the last general election and he is already battling hard to keep the seat.
Greg Hands is responsible for the Tory election campaign as party chairman, but his own Chelsea & Fulham seat is vulnerable if Labour does win a big majority.
Penny Mordaunt won a majority of more than 15,000 in Portsmouth North but a landslide defeat for the Conservatives could end the career of one of the Cabinet’s most recognisable members.
Grant Shapps, the Energy Secretary, is a close ally of Rishi Sunak and one of the Tory party’s most articulate defenders on the airwaves. His Welwyn Hatfield seat was won by Labour back in 1997 and 2001.
Mark Harper is another Sunak ally whose constituency in the Forest of Dean may be a target for Labour as they look for high-profile scalps.
Johnny Mercer attends Cabinet meetings as the minister for veterans. He represents Plymouth Moor View, once a Labour stronghold which the party would love to win back.
Steve Baker is a relatively junior minister but his fierce Brexit campaigning made him a major figure in Westminster. His seat, Wycombe, has been held by the Conservatives for seven decades but is now a marginal constituency.
Iain Duncan Smith won a majority of just 1,262 in Chingford & Woodford Green four years ago. The former Tory leader is one of the most authoritative voices on the back benches.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is set to stand in the redrawn constituency of Somerset North East & Hanham, which Labour has calculated that it needs to win in order to take an overall majority in the House of Commons.
Theresa Villiers, who was in the Cabinet under David Cameron and Boris Johnson, has a small majority in Chipping Barnet and will be vulnerable if Labour can win over voters in outer London.