A Conservative loss in the North Shropshire byelection would be “an absolute disaster” for 보리스 존슨 and would prompt calls for a complete shake-up of the Downing Street operation, Tory MPs have said ahead of the crucial vote on Thursday.
Such are the low expectations following a bruising series of weeks for the prime minister that even a narrow win in the usually ultra-safe Tory seat would be viewed as a relief, they added.
The vote in the constituency won by Owen Paterson in 2019 with a majority of nearly 23,000 is still seen as too close to call with any confidence.
The odds still favour Neil Shastri-Hurst becoming the latest in an almost unbroken line of local Conservative MPs. 하나, the scale of the Liberal Democrat challenge in a seat where they came third in the last election is causing significant jitters among Tories.
A Lib Dem victory would be a political earthquake even greater than their Chesham and Amersham victory in June, and would cap a disastrous week for Johnson after Tuesday’s rebellion ~에 의해 99 Conservative backbenchers over new Covid rules.
This in turn followed weeks of damaging headlines about outside earnings by Tory MPs – the byelection was called when Paterson resigned after a botched No 10 attempt to save him from punishment for illicit lobbying – and details of lockdown-breaking No 10 파티.
Tory hopes rest mainly on local supporters in North Shropshire being less willing to switch sides than their counterparts in the London commuter belt in June, with enough people deciding to stay at home so Shastri-Hurst squeaks to a narrow win.
“If we lose, it would be an absolute disaster for the prime minister,” one Conservative MP said.
“But if it’s just a case of Tory voters sitting on our hands, and the majority going down, that’s largely priced in. We’re at our lowest point, and we’ve all accepted it will be a disappointment.
“But it does show how bad things have got, that even hanging on to such a safe seat would be seen as a good result. We wouldn’t have thought that a few weeks ago.”
Another MP said the 2019 intake of 보수 주의자 were particularly spooked: “They’ve not been through many byelections before and feel like their majorities are getting smaller every week. I’m concerned they might act like headless chickens if we lose North Shropshire.”
Such a loss should prompt “radical changes” to the Downing Street and whipping operations, they said. “People have been loyal so far but have been showing their teeth in recent months and a loss will make things worse for the PM. There’s no authority, there’s no control.”
With the mood inside Downing Street described as simply trying to make it to Christmas, the hope in No 10 is that a win in North Shropshire will send Conservative MPs into recess in a slightly less mutinous mood.
The scale of unrest was highlighted on Tuesday when the Covid rebels included Louie French, who was elected less than two weeks before in the byelection in Old Bexley and Sidcup.
In another notable vignette, in an interview on Wednesday, Shastri-Hurst declined four times to say he believed Johnson was “a man of honesty and integrity”.
Quizzed by the journalist Michael Crick, Shastri-Hurst deflected the questions by saying Johnson had ordered an inquiry into claims of lockdown-defying parties, eventually saying: “I have no reason to question the prime minister’s integrity.”
Some Tories have questioned the decision to select a barrister from Birmingham to fight the largely rural seat.
“He seems perfectly nice and capable, but it was clearly someone in CCHQ going, ‘Birmingham doesn’t look that far from Shropshire on a map, it’ll be fine,’” one MP said.
The Lib Dems, 그 동안에, have been pinning their hopes on enough Labour and Green supporters voting tactically.
“You get the feeling some might only decide in the voting booth,” one campaigner said. “So much could depend on what happens on the day.”