Boris Johnson’s future in doubt if local elections end in disaster, Tories warn

Partygate: Keir Starmer asks why Boris Johnson hasn't resigned

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There is also anger over a failure to properly tackle the cost of living crisis with energy bills going up this week along with an increase on National Insurance. Rebel Tory MPs who tried to push Mr Johnon out earlier this year over the allegations of lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street have insisted that “the issue has not gone away” despite the war in Ukraine. A source on the 1922 Committee, which represents Conservative backbenchers, told the Sunday Express: “We have Easter recess then are rapidly into the local elections. That may be the decision point.”

Another senior backbencher who had handed a letter demanding a leadership election to Sir Graham Brady chairman of the 1922 Committee insisted: “Boris is definitely not out of the woods yet.”

Last week 20 employees in Downing Street received fines from the police for breaking lockdown rules but the Government has refused to identify them.

The MP went on: “We still have to see the police report into Party-gate and the full Sue Gray Report. They could be damning and voters have not forgiven the Government for what happened.

“Obviously, Ukraine has bought him time and also helped strengthen his position. We cannot change leader in the middle of a war but that does not mean we will not revisit this issue.

“There are problems with cost of living in particular that the Government is not tackling and if the local elections are bad then we will see letters go in again.”

A vote on having a Tory leadership election would be triggered if 54 Conservative MPs submit a letter to Sir Graham Brady – 15 percent of the Parliamentary party.

But one known rebel has told the Sunday Express that any potential coup is “now over.”

The MP said: “Ukraine has put everything into perspective. We have seen in Russia what a real dictator looks like and in the middle of a war Party-gate seems a lot less important.

“The Prime Minister has shown real international leadership and there is nothing now that could be said in the Sue Gray report which would force him out.”

The speculation over the Prime Minister’s future comes as a new poll has revealed a collapse in support for the Conservatives in their rural heartlands with a swing of 7.5 percent towards Labour.

The survey from the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) has revealed a major shift in the political allegiances of rural voters, with data showing a third (36 percent) of rural voters intend to vote Labour in the next election – almost identical to those intending to vote Conservative (38 percent).

It found that 66 percent of respondents stated that the UK Government is not doing enough to create prosperity in rural communities.

Almost half of respondents (42 percent) stated that there had been an economic decline in their rural communities in the last five years.

Large gains were also seen for the Green Party, whose percentage share of the rural vote grew from 3 percent to 8 percent, while the Liberal Democrats lost 3 percentage points, moving from 13 percent to 10 percent.

Conservative MNP for Outer York Julian Sturdy warned the Government: “People rightly want a good job and an affordable home. The Levelling Up White Paper was the perfect opportunity to uncover why they can be so hard to find in the countryside, but rural issues were largely absent. I think that’s been noticed by people and needs to be addressed urgently.”

Mark Tufnell, President of the CL, said: “The Levelling Up White Paper showed precious little interest in those living and working in the countryside. 

“No party should take rural voters for granted. 2019 showed us that the old tribal loyalties of politics are dissipating. 

“Any party that comes up with a genuinely ambitious plan to grow the economy in rural areas would, I suspect, win a great deal of support.”

It followed an exclusive poll for the Sunday Express last week by Techne which showed that 63 percent did not think that enough had been done to tackle the cost of living crisis and saw Labour’s national lead increase by one point to 5 percent.

The Conservatives are staring at major losses in their strongest areas including a potential wipeout in London where they could lose control of Wandsworth, Barnett, Harrow and Sutton councils.

In their traditional strongholds they are facing catastrophic losses in Somerset, Wokingham, Crawley, Gosport, Newcastle under Lyme, St Albans, Nuneaton, Pendal and Castlepoint.

Meanwhile the new Red Wall seats recently won from Labour are also vulnerable wirth council seats being defended in Dudley, Sandwell, Sunderland, Sheffield, Solihull and Bury.

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