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Q&A: What are the chances of a Labour ‘supermajority’?

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has warned the Tories are facing a wipeout at the polls (Henry Nicholls/PA)
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has warned the Tories are facing a wipeout at the polls (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has appealed to voters not to hand Labour a “supermajority” when the country goes to the polls on July 4.

– Why are the Tories so worried?

After three weeks of campaigning, the polls look dire for Rishi Sunak with Labour continuing to hold a solid double-digit lead over their rivals.

Tony Blair in Downing Street surrounded by supporters waving Union Jacks following the 1997 general election
Tony Blair celebrates Labour’s 1997 election landslide (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Following the biggest survey so far – of almost 60,000 voters – pollsters YouGov projected Labour was on course for a historic 194-seat majority, eclipsing even the 179 seat margin of victory they achieved in Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide.

And that was even before Nigel Farage announced he was returning as the leader of Reform UK and the backlash over Mr Sunak’s early departure from the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in Normandy.

– What is the Tory response?

The Conservatives fear Reform will take votes from them in constituencies where they are in a tight, two-way contest with Labour – particularly in those “red wall” seats they took from Labour in 2019 – potentially handing victory to their opponents.

At the same time, the Tories are under threat from the Liberal Democrats in their own “blue wall” heartlands in the South and West following a series of by-election victories for Sir Ed Davey’s party.

Nigel Farage speaking at a press conference in front of a Union Jack backdrop
The Tories fear votes for Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party will hand seats to Labour (James Manning/PA)

They have now stepped up their warnings that a vote for anyone other than the Conservatives risks handing the keys to No 10 to Sir Keir Starmer.

One online Tory advert claims that a voting for Reform or the Lib Dems could give Labour 100 extra seats, resulting in the biggest majority in their history.

It depicts a scenario where the Conservatives are beaten into third place behind the Lib Dems, with just 57 seats, despite getting 19% of the vote and without Reform winning a single seat.

Mr Shapps said it would be “very bad news” for the country if Sir Keir was able to enter Downing Street with his power effectively “unchecked” by Parliament.

– What are the precedents?

The biggest landslide in UK political history came in 1924 when the Conservatives led by Stanley Baldwin won by 209 seats, ousting the minority Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald while the Liberals were annihilated.

Stanley Baldwin smoking a pipe
Stanley Baldwin led the Conservatives to a record 209 majority (PA)

The scale of MacDonald’s defeat was in part blamed on the emergence days before polling of the Zinoviev letter – now widely accepted to be a forgery – suggesting British communists were under orders from Soviet Russia to exploit a Labour victory to foment revolution in the UK.

In Canada in 1993, the ruling Progressive Conservatives (PCs) suffered what has been described as the worst ever defeat by a governing party in a Western democracy, losing all but two of their 156 seats.

Their demise was in part due to the rise of the insurgent Reform Party who swept up traditional conservative votes in the west of the country, supplanting the PCs as the main party of the right in parliament.

Their success has be cited by Mr Farage who has frequently expressed his ambition to conduct a “reverse takeover” of the Conservatives if they are heavily defeated on July 4.