Local elections 2018: Conservatives yet to have proper campaign plan despite facing losses, warns Cabinet minister


A cabinet minister has warned that the Conservatives do not have a proper campaign plan in place, despite facing wipeout in London at the coming local elections.

The frontbencher told The Independent the situation the party faced was “really bad”, confirming the findings of polling released earlier this year.

He also confirmed the party is taking seriously the possibility it will lose the flagship council Wandsworth in the capital, along with Westminster and Barnet.

It comes as others in the party have warned that a dire show in the local elections in May could lead to a fresh assault on Theresa May’s leadership.

Polling undertaken by the Conservative election analyst Lord Hayward showed in January that the Conservatives could lose more than half their London boroughs in crucial elections in May.

The Independent reported more than two weeks ago that Labour had launched its London campaign, with Mayor Sadiq Khan citing Barnet and Wandsworth as key targets.

But the Conservative Cabinet minister told The Independent:  “Things are looking really bad in London.

“We haven’t yet got our campaign plans in place for the local elections”.

Asked if they seriously believed the Conservatives will lose strongholds Barnet and Wandsworth, the minister said: “Yes.”

Wandsworth has been a Tory flagship council since Margaret Thatcher’s heyday and in the 1980s pioneered the contracting out of council services, which is at the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s attack on Government policy.

The council has also consistently had among the lowest levels of council tax in the country, making any victory for Labour there hugely symbolic.

The 2014 election left Barnet on a knife edge with 32 Tory seats and 30 Labour seats, making it ripe for a Labour victory, while losing Westminster would also be a political kick in the teeth for Ms May’s party.  

A string of high-profile defeats is likely to make key London MPs begin to worry about their own constituencies, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, given Labour activists have launched a campaign to unseat him in Uxbridge.

Conservative MPs have said that if the local elections lead to a complete meltdown, with Tories losing out in both London and Birmingham to Labour, then Ms May could face a further leadership challenge.