In Brief

Brexit Party overtakes Tories in national poll

On course for a thumping victory at European elections, Nigel Farage’s new party could become third biggest at a general election

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has overtaken the Conservatives in a nationwide poll for the first time, in a survey that has startled Westminster.

A ComRes poll found that if a general election campaign led by Theresa May took place now, it would put the Tories on course for their worst result in history. Support for the ruling party would fall to just 19%, seeing them lose 46 MPs to the nascent Brexit Party which only officially launched in March but is now polling at 20%.

Among high profile Tory scalps would be Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and party chairman Brandon Lewis. The survey “apparently confirms the fears of Conservative MPs and activists in uproar over the prime minister’s handling of Brexit” says the Daily Telegraph, which described the poll as a “bombshell”.

“It’s just one poll and we should be careful about reading too much into it” says Politico’s Charlie Cooper, “but if anything even vaguely resembling these results came to pass in a general election, it would represent an extraordinary wipeout for the Tory party”.

The finding “is likely to add to pressure on the prime minister to announce a timetable for her resignation,” The Independent says, “as she faces growing calls from Conservative backbenchers to quit within weeks”.

It’s also worth noting “that the real winners of the Brexit Party’s rise could be Labour who, with the right-wing vote split, might run away with a general election,” Cooper says.

Labour would become the largest party on 27% giving them a margin of 137 seats, allowing Jeremy Corbyn to lead a minority government. It could also see them dethrone Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson, former leader Iain Duncan Smith and Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee.

The ComRes poll “chimes with another recent poll by Opinium,” HuffPost UK says, “which showed the Brexit Party snapping at the Tories’ heels in a Westminster election, where they would be just one point behind”.

According to Opinium, Labour would be out in front with 28% support, followed by the Tories on 22% and the Brexit Party on 21%.

Although cautioning the European election in less than two weeks could be “bleeding into” and “inflating” the Westminster results, Adam Drummond, head of political polling at Opinium said it was “remarkable” the new party could be on the cusp of overtaking the party of government.

The Guardian reports that “Tory and Labour politicians have issued frantic calls to their voters to back them in next week’s European elections” after a new poll showed support for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party had soared to a level higher than for the two main parties put together.

The Opinium survey for the Observer places the Brexit party on 34%, when people were asked how they intended to vote on 23 May, with Labour slipping to 21% and the Conservatives collapsing to just 11%.

Ominously for Theresa May, support for the Tories at the European elections is now less than a third of that for Farage’s party, and below that for the Liberal Democrats, who are on 12%.

The poll suggests the Brexit party “is now on course for a thumping victory that Farage will, MPs fear, use to back his argument that the UK must leave the EU immediately without a deal”, reports the Guardian.

Downing Street confirmed cross-party talks aimed at agreeing a compromise Brexit deal that could command a majority in parliament will continue today.

However, writing in the Mail on Sunday, Gavin Williamson, the former defence secretary, who was sacked over the Huawei leak, said pressing ahead with talks will have “fatal” consequences.

He labelled Theresa May as “politically naïve” for going into fruitless negotiations which he claimed were bound to fail.

Stark divisions within both major parties and a failure to deliver Brexit has enabled Farage to hoover up support with a simple message of Brexit “betrayal” as part of a wider Westminster stitch-up aimed at thwarting the referendum result.

Amid signs of mounting panic and recriminations in both Tory and Labour ranks, MPs on both sides are attempting belatedly to mount “stop Farage” operations.

Theresa May was accused by senior Conservatives of fuelling populism with her indecision over Brexit, while Labour politicians urged their backers to come out and vote despite the party’s mixed messages on Europe, which are depressing its support.

Among those to express frustration with Labour’s position on Brexit was former prime minister Tony Blair.

On Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the former Labour leader urged Labour supporters who can no longer vote for the party to endorse one which backs Remain.

He said it was “important the anti-Brexit side is larger and stronger than the Farage side” in the European elections.

“I do come across people who cannot vote for Labour, in which case I say ‘don’t stay at home - vote for any of the other parties’”, he said.

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