Boris Johnson faces losing more than half of key marginals to the resurgent Lib Dems

PUBLISHED: 10:14 11 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:14 11 August 2019

(Left to right) Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds, newly-elected Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Kirsty Williams AM at the Castle Hotel in Brecon, Wales. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

(Left to right) Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds, newly-elected Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Kirsty Williams AM at the Castle Hotel in Brecon, Wales. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

The reported 'Boris bounce' is falling flat in key marginal seats with the Conservatives set to lose more than half the constituencies they will be defending against a resurgent Liberal Democrats.

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New polling by YouGov has found a 14.1% slump in Conservative support and an overall swing of more than 8% to the Liberal Democrats, compared to the 2017 election, with the swing to the Lib Dems increasing further if Boris Johnson campaigns for a No-Deal Brexit.

The polling, for the People's Vote campaign, also found that if their Tory stood as an independent opposing no-deal Brexit the Lib Dems would hoover up all but three of the 20 seats surveyed.

The figures also showed if parties united against a No-Deal Brexit on a single platform, the Tories would be defeated in 13 of 20 seats surveyed.

The polling covered constituencies with the smallest Conservative majorities where the Liberal Democrats came second in 2017 (including Brecon and Radnorshire which Johnson's party has already lost in a by-election that coincided with the start of the polling on August 1st).

Asked if there was a general election tomorrow, the survey shows that 30% of 2017 Conservative voters will abandon the party despite its new leader, with a third of these lost votes going to the Liberal Democrats, and 18% defecting to Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

This would mean the following Conservatives would lose their seats:

- Zac Goldsmith, who would finish 16% behind the Lib Dems in Richmond Park

- Derek Thomas, who would finish 15% behind the Lib Dems in St. Ives

- Alex Chalk, who would finish 11.5% behind the Lib Dems in Cheltenham

- Peter Heaton-Jones, who would be 8.2% behind the Lib Dems in North Devon

- Mary Robinson, who would finish 7.7% behind the Lib Dems in Cheadle

- Maria Caulfield who would finish 5.8% behind the Lib Dems in Lewes

- Anne Main, would be 5.3% behind the Lib Dems in St. Albans

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- William Wragg who would be 3.5% behind the Lib Dems in Hazel Grove

- James Heappey who would be 3% behind the Lib Dems in Wells

- Scott Mann would be 2% behind the Lib Dems in North Cornwall

The Conservatives' projected losses are not confined to areas that voted to Remain in the EU in 2016 - as a majority of voters in St Ives, North Devon, North Cornwall and Hazel Grove voted to Leave in 2016.

The polling also shows that, excluding "don't knows", 56% of voters in these key battleground seats support (with 44% opposed) a public vote on whether Brexit goes ahead. A quarter (24%) of current Conservative supporters back a People's Vote. If the public is given the final say on Brexit, these seats would to stay in the EU by a margin of 54% to 46%.

The polling also shows deep pessimism about Brexit with voters in these seats saying by a margin of two-to-one that the economy, the NHS and their children's futures would be worse off. By a margin of four-to-one, they think living standards will fall.

Peter Kellner, past president of YouGov and one of Britain's leading political commentators, said the Lib Dems will make significant gains at the Tories' expense.

He said: "This polling shows that, in the battleground seats, Boris Johnson's hard line on Brexit is far from a deal sealer in any early election. Even before a campaign has begun, when the Lib Dems could expect to benefit from enhanced coverage and their tactical voting message will almost certainly gain traction, Jo Swinson's party is well placed to make significant gains at the Tories' expense.

"Given the volatility of recent general election campaigns, it's hard to see Boris Johnson opting for an early election as anything other than a mad gamble. Of course, he's always shown himself willing to take risks, but a lot of Conservative MPs could face a very premature end of their political career even if nothing changes from this poll.

"In fact, there are very good reasons to believe a poll like this, under-estimates the real level of Lib Dem support because that party has generally shown itself to be highly effective in its target seats at squeezing Labour and Green votes to block the Tories. Such left-wing voters may not actively consider switching to the Lib Dems until a real campaign has begun and in 'peace time' tell pollsters which party they'd like to support, not which party they will eventually almost certainly vote for."

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