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Poll shows Tories slumping to lowest rating since Truss meltdown with Labour government ‘99% certain’ after election as Rishi Sunak faces exodus of despairing MPs and fury at ‘children’ running CCHQ

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Rishi Sunak is facing mounting despair among Tories as a poll found the party has slumped to its lowest support since the Liz Truss meltdown.

The PM tried to rally his troops as the Commons went into its Easter break yesterday, insisting that the economy is turning a corner and his ‘plan’ is working.

But within hours Mr Sunak suffered a double blow as two ministers quit, forcing a mini-reshuffle. 

Robert Halfon unexpectedly resigned as skills minister, while James Heappey formally left his post as defence minister – with both stepping down from Parliament at the general election. Some 63 Conservatives, and more independents who were originally elected for the party, have so far announced they will not stand again. 

The mood among MPs is increasingly bleak, with deep frustration at ‘childish’ campaigning blunders. 

Chatter continues about a leadership challenge, with the moment of maximum danger seen as after the local and mayoral elections in May. However, critics seem unable to agree on a favoured replacement.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice said he believed there is now a ’99 per cent’ chance that Keir Starmer will end up in Downing Street, pointing out that the Tories would not have anyone to ally with in a hung Parliament.   

A Savanta survey for the Telegraph put Labour on 44 per cent support, with the Tories down two points on 24 per cent - the lowest vote share since October 2022

A Savanta survey for the Telegraph put Labour on 44 per cent support, with the Tories down two points on 24 per cent – the lowest vote share since October 2022

Chatter continues about a leadership challenge, with the moment of maximum danger for Rishi Sunak (pictured in Barrow this week) seen as after the local and mayoral elections in May

 Chatter continues about a leadership challenge, with the moment of maximum danger for Rishi Sunak (pictured in Barrow this week) seen as after the local and mayoral elections in May

The Savanta survey for the Telegraph put Labour on 44 per cent support, with the Tories down two points on 24 per cent – the lowest vote share since October 2022.

Alarmingly for Mr Sunak, Reform UK held on to its highest ever showing in Savanta research, at 11 per cent. 

The firm’s political polling director Chris Hopkins said: ‘Reform UK’s high watermark from our most recent poll appears to be holding, and Labour’s vote share appears to be holding firm. It is hard to envision, but there is no reason why things can’t get even worse for Rishi Sunak in the coming weeks. That being said, it doesn’t look like there any readymade alternatives for the Conservatives to avoid electoral wipeout.’

Veteran MP Mr Halfon, who has served in a series of senior roles since first being elected to Parliament in 2010, said in a letter to Mr Sunak: ‘After well over two decades as the Harlow Parliamentary Candidate and as MP, I feel that it is time for me to step down at the forthcoming general election, and in doing so, to resign as a minister in your Government.’

Mr Heappey, the Conservative MP for Wells, Somerset, earlier this month announced his plan to quit as an MP and to stand down as a minister before then.

In a thread posted to X, he wrote: ‘I’ve loved every minute as MinAF in this incredible department.

‘Our Armed Forces & MoD civil servants are the very best of us.

‘Representing them in Parliament & around the world over last 4.5 years has been an amazing privilege.’

But he said ‘the work isn’t done’ in backing Ukraine, saying the UK ‘must continue to lead the world in the breadth and bravery of our support’.

Mr Sunak thanked Mr Heappey for his ‘invaluable role in implementing the Government’s defence agenda’.

‘You have made an important contribution to Government and your support to consecutive Conservative administrations at the Ministry of Defence has been commendable,’ the Prime Minister wrote in a letter.

Mr Heappey had reportedly been on ‘resignation watch’ from his ministerial role after telling colleagues privately that he was unhappy about the level of defence spending.

The former soldier issued a departing plea this week for the defence spending target of 2.5% of GDP to be ‘achieved urgently’.

During a 10-year career in the Rifles, Mr Heappey served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Kenya.

He had been hotly tipped to succeed Ben Wallace as defence secretary following his resignation last year.

But Mr Sunak instead gave the Cabinet post to Grant Shapps, who has no military experience.

The Tory exodus gathered pace yesterday as Robert Halfon quit the government and declared he will not stand for Parliament again

The Tory exodus gathered pace yesterday as Robert Halfon quit the government and declared he will not stand for Parliament again

James Heappey posted a picture of himself leaving the Ministry of Defence on Twitter/X, alongside the caption 'ENDEX' which is a military term for 'end of exercise'

James Heappey posted a picture of himself leaving the Ministry of Defence on Twitter/X, alongside the caption ‘ENDEX’ which is a military term for ‘end of exercise’

In his letter to Mr Halfon, Mr Sunak told Mr Halfon he was ‘very sorry to hear’ of his decision to step down from Government and to stand down at the next election.

‘You have made an important contribution to our public life, spanning almost 25 years,’ the Prime Minister wrote.

He commended Mr Halfon for being a ‘stalwart champion’ for apprenticeships and promoting social mobility.

Leo Docherty will replace Mr Heappey as armed forces minister, while Luke Hall has been appointed to the Department for Education following the departure of Mr Halfon.

Other moves in the mini-reshuffle triggered by the resignations include Nus Ghani becoming minister for Europe at the Foreign Office and Alan Mak becoming a junior minister jointly in the Department for Business and Trade and the Cabinet Office.

Kevin Hollinrake, who as Post Office minister held a junior ministerial role, has now been promoted to minister of state rank in the Department for Business and Trade  

Who are the Tory MPs standing down at the general election?

  1. Douglas Ross, Moray
  2. Sir Charles Walker, Broxbourne
  3. Crispin Blunt, Reigate
  4. Mike Penning, Hemel Hempstead
  5. Adam Afriyie, Windsor
  6. Chloe Smith, Norwich North
  7. William Wragg, Hazel Grove
  8. Dehenna Davison, Bishop Auckland
  9. Sajid Javid, Bromsgrove
  10. Sir Gary Streeter, South West Devon
  11. Andrew Percy, Brigg and Goole
  12. Mark Pawsey, Rugby
  13. George Eustice, Camborne and Redruth
  14. Edward Timpson, Eddisbury
  15. Jo Gideon, Stoke-on-Trent Central
  16. Stephen McPartland, Stevenage
  17. Sir Paul Beresford, Mole Valley
  18. Robin Walker, Worcester
  19. Sir Graham Brady, Altrincham and Sale West
  20. Pauline Latham, Mid Derbyshire
  21. Gordon Henderson, Sittingbourne and Sheppey
  22. Craig Whittaker, Calder Valley
  23. Nicola Richards, West Bromwich East
  24. Henry Smith, Crawley
  25. John Howell, Henley
  26. Sir Robert Goodwill, Scarborough and Whitby
  27. Jonathan Djanogly, Huntingdon
  28. Dr Matthew Offord, Hendon
  29. Alister Jack, Dumfries and Galloway
  30. Richard Bacon, South Norfolk
  31. Dominic Raab, Esher and Walton
  32. Philip Dunne, Ludlow
  33. Andy Carter, Warrington South
  34. Will Quince, Colchester
  35. Royston Smith, Southampton Itchen
  36. Sir William Cash, Stone
  37. Lucy Allan, Telford
  38. Steve Brine, Winchester
  39. Sir Greg Knight, East Yorkshire
  40. Chris Clarkson, Heywood and Middleton
  41. Ben Wallace, Wyre and Preston North
  42. Trudy Harrison, Copeland
  43. Stuart Andrew, Pudsey
  44. Stephen Hammond, Wimbledon
  45. David Jones, Clwyd West
  46. Sir Alok Sharma, Reading West
  47. Chris Grayling, Epsom and Ewell
  48. John Baron, Basildon and Billericay
  49. Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton
  50. Dr Lisa Cameron, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
  51. Jamie Wallis, Bridgend
  52. Sir James Duddridge, Rochford and Southend East
  53. Oliver Heald, North East Hertfordshire
  54. Mike Freer, Finchley and Golders Green
  55. Kwasi Kwarteng, Spelthorne
  56. Nickie Aiken, Cities of London and Westminster
  57. Tracey Crouch, Chatham and Aylesford
  58. Kieran Mullan, Crewe and Nantwich
  59. Paul Scully, Sutton and Cheam
  60. Theresa May, Maidenhead
  61. Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth
  62. James Heappey, Wells
  63. Robert Halfon, Harlow 

 



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