Rishi Sunak and 15 ministers at risk of losing seat at general election, new poll predicts


Rishi Sunak
 and 15 of his cabinet ministers are at risk of losing their seats in a general election “wipeout”, polling data shared with The Independent shows.

Senior Tory figures – including the prime minister, deputy PM Dominic Raab and health secretary Steve Barclay – are all at risk of defeat at the election expected in 2024, exclusive seat-by-seat analysis found.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly, defence secretary Ben Wallace, business secretary Grant Shapps, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and environment secretary Therese Coffey could also lose their seats, according to the Focaldata polling for Best for Britain.

Only five cabinet ministers – Jeremy Hunt, Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, Nadhim Zawawi and Kemi Badenoch – would cling on after the 2024 election, according to the poll.

All other Tory MPs in the current cabinet are at risk of losing their seats to Labour – except Mr Raab, who would lose to the Liberal Democrats in Esher and Walton, and Scottish secretary Alister Jack, on course for defeat by the SNP in Dumfries and Galloway.

New analysis shared with The Independent on 10 crucial “bellweather” seats – those who have voted consistently with the winning party in recent decades – shows that Labour is on course to take all 10.

“Sunak’s cabinet deserve nothing short of a wipeout,” said Naomi Smith, chief executive of Best for Britain, a group campaigning for internationalist values and for closer ties with the EU.

“But wavering voters could throw them a lifeline, and so Keir Starmer must take nothing for granted and avoid alienating Labour support by drawing unnecessary red lines on Brexit.”

Penny Mordaunt is one of the senior figures who could lose their seat (PA Wire)
Penny Mordaunt is one of the senior figures who could lose their seat (PA Wire)

The high proportion of uncertain voters still gives the Tories a chance of making the election a close call, said Ms Smith. Despite the dire polling for Mr Sunak’s party, analysis by Best for Britain has revealed that Labour’s mammoth lead over the Tories could be more fragile than previously thought.

The group’s Wavering Wall report found that the high proportion of wavering voters – those answering “don’t know” in surveys – typically lean heavily to the Conservative Party and could still back Mr Sunak’s party at the next general election.

The multilevel regression with poststratification (MRP) polls carried out by Focaldata show Labour is on course to win 517 seats at the next election. But the victory is cut to only 353 seats, a majority of fewer than 60, once the impact of the “don’t know” voters is factored in.

And the new seat-by-seat analysis shows that 12 of the 16 cabinet members on course for defeat at the general election – including Mr Sunak, Mr Raab, Mr Cleverly and Mr Barclay – would cling onto their seats once “don’t know” voters are taken into account.

Only Mr Wallace, work and pensions secretary Mel Stride, transport secretary Mark Harper and Welsh secretary David TC Davies are on course to lose their seats after the “don’t know” voters are factored in.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would hold onto his seat, polling suggests (PA Wire)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would hold onto his seat, polling suggests (PA Wire)

Mr Sunak is struggling to revive Tory fortunes at the start of 2023, with most recent polls giving Labour leads of around 20 points. Polling experts said a slight poll bounce after Mr Sunak took over from Liz Truss has now “flatlined”.

Earlier this week Mr Sunak tried to relaunch his premiership by offering five promises to turn around the economy, cut NHS waiting lists and “stop the small boats” by the election in 2024.

But the latest MRP poll findings raise questions about Mr Sunak’s leadership ahead of his first real electoral test at the local elections in May. Some within the Tory party believe a drubbing could see a push for Boris Johnson to return.

A grassroots Tory group made up of Mr Johnson’s allies is set to launch a “Momentum-style” campaign to hand members full power of the selection of candidates.

The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), run by Mr Johnson’s donor Peter Cruddas, also wants a rule change so that any MP backed by only 15 per cent of their colleagues can run for the leadership.

But former cabinet minister David Davis warned fellow Tory MPs not to be tempted by the former PM’s “obsessed” backers into inviting a return.

“There are in Tory party about 20 per cent [of MPs] who are obsessed by the fact they voted for him and therefore he should be in power,” Mr Davis told The Independent this week. “That really is not the view of the public – it would cost us a lot of seats if Boris was back in charge.”

Chris Hopkins, director at Savanta, said Mr Sunak had to get the Tories ahead of Labour on economic competence, saying it was the “key” to any chance of electoral success.

“He’s not really liked or disliked too dissimilarly to Keir Starmer, which also helps. While the ‘not Liz Truss’ bounce has expired, the real work for him starts now,” he told The Independent.

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