Photographer: Luke Macgregor

Labour Lawmakers Said to Fear Losing 120 Seats in U.K. Election

  • Some seats with 5-digit majorities may be at risk: lawmakers
  • May has doubled-digit poll lead ahead of June 8 election

The U.K. opposition Labour Party may lose as many as 120 seats in next month’s general election, two of the party’s lawmakers who are defending seats said, citing internal polling that paints a bleaker picture than public surveys.

Some Labour seats with majorities of more than 10,000 may even come into play in the June 8 vote, the politicians said. Both lawmakers declined to be identified discussing internal party matters. The Labour Party declined to comment when contacted by phone on Sunday.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is trailing badly in the polls, with most showing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives ahead by 15 percentage points or more, suggesting she’s on course for a landslide win. The opposition won 232 seats in the 2015 general election, and a loss of 120 would reduce them to just 112 constituencies.

“That’s worse than even the most pessimistic projections,” John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said in an interview. “It would be Labour’s worst result since the 1930s.”

Curtice said most projections show Labour winning from 170 to 180 seats, a loss of 50-60 lawmakers. The Electoral Calculus website on Sunday put Labour on 166 seats, with the Conservatives on 410. The House of Commons has 650 seats.

Thatcher’s Days

The scale of the Tory lead in polls has spurred publicly gloomy comments from some opposition lawmakers. Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson on Friday told the Guardian newspaper that if May maintains her lead, “she will command a Margaret Thatcher-style majority.” Thatcher won 397 seats in 1983, with Labour on 209. Her majority over all opposition parties combined was 144.

The Tories think they can win any seat where Labour had a majority of 5,000 votes or less, and are now setting their sights on constituencies where Labour won by 8,000 or 9,000, one of the lawmakers said. Some seats won with even greater majorities may come into play by the end of the campaign, the politician said. Even some members who gained their seat by 10,000 to 12,000 votes are concerned about their ability to defend the seat, the other lawmaker said.

One of the politicians said that voters are raising the issue of Labour’s leadership in campaign visits. Corbyn, a serial rebel under the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, was a surprise winner of the party leadership in 2015, and defended his tenure in a second leadership vote among party members a year later, following a revolt by the bulk of his parliamentary members. While popular with the party’s grassroots, polls have yet to suggest that popularity spreading to the wider electorate.

Corbyn

Neither of the two MPs will feature Corbyn on their literature, though both said that in past elections the party leader hadn’t been prominent. Both said they are campaigning on local issues. The party research cited by the lawmakers was conducted last month, when a succession of polls showed the Tories with a lead of 20 percentage points or more. Most polls in May show leads in the mid-to-high teens. 

Labour have clawed back in the polls, suggesting a recovery, though still a defeat. An Opinium Survey on Sunday put the Tories on 47 percent and Labour on 32 percent, while a ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and the Independent put the Conservatives on 48 percent and Labour on 30 percent. Labour won 30 percent of the vote in 2015.

“The Labour vote is creeping up slightly in the opinion polls, though this is being canceled out in part by the UKIP vote going to the Conservatives,” Curtice said. “There isn’t any evidence yet of the Labour vote going into meltdown.”

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