The Conservatives are hoping to take advantage of a strong poll lead to unseat key Labour figures, in what is predicted to be a “bloodbath” result for the beleaguered Labour Party.
With the Tory party showing its strongest polling figures in decades, pulling some 23 percentage points ahead of their Labour rivals, and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) vote collapsing, Conservative strategists are aiming their sights at Labour seats with majorities as high as 10,000.
According to insiders, the party is allocating resources to challenging Labour figures such as Liz Kendall, a former leadership contender who has a majority of around 7,000 in Leicester West, former Shadow Transport Secretary Vernon Coaker, and deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson.
“It’s going to be a bloodbath and Labour know it,” one Conservative MP told The Guardian. “We’re going after people like Liz Kendall, and I think we’ll give her a good run. Lilian Greenwood, Vernon Coaker will be gone as well. Tom Watson is in a bit of trouble as well because he’s got a big Ukip vote [which may go Conservative].”
A Midlands-based Conservative MP added: “We are going to do very well in the east Midlands and the question is how well. Vernon Coaker is going to have to work very hard to keep that seat, even though he’s been there 20 years. In the West Midlands, we’re going to do even better.”
Meanwhile, an analysis by journalist Martin Robbins and analyst Martin Baxter published in The Guardian shows the Conservatives on track to gain even more seats than Labour did in their historic 1997 landslide election, which saw senior Conservative cabinet members such as Michael Heseltine lose their seats.
“Back in 1997, when New Labour won the general election in a historic landslide, Professor Anthony King described the exit poll as being like “an asteroid hitting the planet and destroying practically all life on Earth.” That election saw Labour win 418 seats to the Conservatives’ 165, while the Liberal Democrats gained 46 seats,” Robbins wrote.
“Our model sees the Tories on 422 seats, with Labour reduced to just 150, and the Lib Dems declining from 9 to 6. The Conservative majority would be north of 190. Labour would be wiped out beyond what most people are currently predicting. Leadership candidates like Clive Lewis would no longer be leadership candidates, because they would no longer be MPs.”
Despite the poor predictions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s team have remained optimistic, certain that they can swing the vote their way.
Speaking following Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Corbyn’s spokesman said the party leadership was confident the polls would narrow once the public were able to hear Labour’s pitch “in our own voice”.
He added: “We are confident that we can win this election, and we’re fighting for every seat, and we’re confident that once Labour’s message is clearly heard, and there is a chance for the public to hear policies that many of them won’t have heard before, but which are extremely popular, and we know to be so, that will have cut-through, and Labour support will increase.”