Why Rishi Sunak believes all hope is not lost

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Rishi Sunak has two weeks left of his campaign Credit: ITV News

With two weeks remaining before the General Election, Rishi Sunak will stick with two campaigning themes which do not appear as yet to have had any impact on a tide that has turned against the Tories.

The first is to point to all those polls that signal Labour winning by a historic landslide, and argue that it would be “dangerous” in a largely unspecified way for Labour to become an “elected dictatorship” with a majority of 100 or even more than 200.

Sunak’s second argument is that the Tories would cut taxes and Labour would raise them - which has the advantage of being a simple message, though too many voters seemingly either don’t believe it or don’t care. I won’t dwell on it here.

So are the Tories flogging a totally dead horse?

That is plausible. But here are a few reasons why there is still something of a contest.

The first is the mathematical curiosity that the polls - YouGov’s MRP in particular - show that Labour could win by a historically huge margin of victory with a potential share of the vote, perhaps 38%, which would be less than Corbyn’s Labour more than 40% polled in 2017 when it was nowhere near forming a government.

That paradox - or eccentric consequence of our first-past-the-post system - is because Reform and the Lib Dems seem to be picking up many more votes than they did in 2017, most of them from the Tories.

So, there is logic to Sunak asking new Lib Dem and Reform voters whether they are happy at the idea they are voting for Farage and Davey to get Starmer.

Many may well say they are. But it’s rational for Sunak to ask.

YouGov said its latest study projects Labour is on course to achieve a 200-seat majority. Credit: PA

Second, both Labour and Tory campaigners believe something like 12% of voters are undecided about their vote and another 12% say their current party preference is only mild and could change.

So, that is about a quarter of voters who are sort of up for grabs. And that is enough to give Sunak the hope that a potential Labour landslide could - could - be cut back to a much smaller and more conventional majority.

Reinforcing that limited optimism - is that well over 100 seats are also seen by both parties as too close to call.

That slim margin between Tory humiliation and respectable defeat is why Labour is continuing to throw resources at more seats than it had hoped to be doing so close to July 4.

None of which is to say that the obliteration of the Tories is inconceivable. But the outcome in the early hours of 5 July is not a done deal.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every day in the run-up to the election Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…