Hard to lose that label Boris warned public is attaching word corruption to Tory brand

Michela Morizzo discusses recent poll results

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Express.co.uk spoke to a former Prime Minister adviser who left Downing Street before Boris Johnson took power. They say members of the public taking part in focus groups are increasingly turning their attention to the idea of sleaze around the Tories. It comes after senior backbencher Neil Parish was suspended for allegedly watching porn in the Commons chamber, while the Downing Street operation being rocked by Partygate fines.  

The former adviser, who now works for a prominent public relations and lobbying firm, told Express.co.uk: “The word ‘corruption’ is beginning to naturally slip into the conversations in the focus groups when talking about the Conservatives and Government.

“It is not being pushed or directed in the questioning but coming up time and again from the people taking part.

“It’s a real problem for them [the Government] and it is hard to lose that label.”

The ex-special adviser also noted that there were similarities now with the reaction to the sleaze which eventually destroyed John Major’s Government in the 1990s and heralded 13 years of Labour rule with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The warning has come ahead of a crucial week of local elections where the Conservatives are predicted to have disastrous results – especially in London.

There are fears that the party could be wiped out in the capital for the first time with normally strong areas like Barnett, Westminster, Wandsworth and Havering all threatening to fall.

Meanwhile, the Tories are also projected to slip from second to third place in Scotland where controversy surrounding the SNP, including Nicola Sturgeon breaking her own Covid rules, does not seem to have stuck in the public consciousness.

The Techne UK/ Express tracker poll this week has brought some good news for Boris Johnson with the Tories closing the gap on Labour by one point to five percent.

Experts suggest this shows Sir Keir Starmer’s strategy of focusing on drinks parties in Downing Street during lockdown rather than policies has run its course and is no longer having an effect.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow communities secretary, is understood to have led a bid to get Sir Keir to focus on the cost of living instead, which concerns more voters.

But Tory MPs are looking at Thursday’s local elections before deciding whether to pull the trigger on a leadership vote.

A number of them have already openly submitted letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee which represents Tory backbenchers.

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If he receives enough letters, Conservative MPs will have a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, who told Mr Johnson that “the gig is up”, has joined ex-Chief Whip Mark Harper, Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen and a number of former Remainer Conservative MPs in already submitting letters.

But sources in Downing Street are hopeful that the Red wall seats in the North and Midlands can help save the day.

A current senior adviser said: “It is not looking pretty in London but there are parts of the country in those Red Wall areas where we have never fielded candidates seriously before.

“So we will make some gains which will surprise people and the picture will not look as bad I suspect as people believe it will.”

One pro-Boris Johnson backbencher said: “The problem is this time our supporters will sit on their hands. They would come out in a general election but not in a council election.”

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