DAN HODGES: Get a grip, Rishi - or this could easily become the Tories' last ... trends now

DAN HODGES: Get a grip, Rishi - or this could easily become the Tories' last ... trends now

The Tory MP I was speaking to enjoys a majority in the tens of thousands. But when I informed him on Wednesday that Rishi Sunak was about to call the General Election, his reaction was terse. ‘Oh, God!’ he exclaimed.

That was one of the more positive responses. A second MP greeted the news by bursting into tears. A third launched into a scathing attack on Downing Street and the PM’s senior advisers. ‘They’re just a bunch of f***ing posh public schoolboys who haven’t got a clue and are going to see the party destroyed!’ he raged.

He then phoned 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, informing him he would be submitting a letter of no-confidence in Sunak. Brady replied that as the King had already agreed a dissolution of Parliament, nothing could be done.

I was working as a Commons researcher the day John Major called the election in 1997 that ushered in the New Labour era. The mood back then among Conservative MPs was of resignation, but relief.

‘We need a break,’ one told me. ‘We’ve been in power too long. It’ll do us good to be out of office for a bit to recharge our batteries.’

That is not the feeling in the parliamentary Tory Party this morning. Because many believe the election of 2024 will not be an ordinary campaign. In fact, they fear it may well be their party’s last campaign.

‘This could be it. We’re not facing defeat – we’re facing complete obliteration,’ one Minister told me grimly. ‘I can see a scenario now where we wake up on July 5, Starmer has a 200-seat majority and there is no Conservative Party.’

This may seem apocalyptic talk. But this isn’t just grounded in pessimism – but a hard-headed analysis of the prevailing electoral landscape.

There will be many twists and turns over the next few weeks. But one golden political rule has already been broken.

Conventional wisdom in both major parties held that as the election neared, and voters’ attention turned to the choice they’d have to make, the opinion polls would begin to narrow.

The opposite happened. A year ago, Sir Keir Starmer enjoyed a 16-point average poll lead. On the day the election was called it was 21 points – a gap that, if reflected on July 4, would give the Conservatives 92 seats and Labour 479.

Again, the conventional wisdom is that Labour’s lead will diminish during the campaign. But with the rules of politics being rewritten, every significant data point over the past year has told the same story.

Polls. By-elections. Local council elections. Party canvass returns. All indicate that voters have already made up their minds. And they want Rishi Sunak and his party booted out of office and out of their lives for good.

‘The key

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