Express.co.uk spoke to a former adviser to the Prime Minister who left Downing Street before Boris Johnson came to power. They say audience members who participate 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 room, while the Downing Street operation was rocked by Partygate fines.
The former adviser, who now works for a leading public relations and lobbying firm, told Express.co.uk: “The word ‘corruption’ naturally starts to slip into focus group discussions when it comes to Conservatives and the government. .
“It is not pushed or steered into the interrogation, but comes up again and again from the people who participate.
“It’s a real problem for them [the Government] and it’s hard to get rid of that label.”
The ex-Special Adviser also noted that there were now similarities with the response to the sleaze that eventually destroyed John Major’s government in the 1990s and ushered in 13 years of Labor rule with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
The warning came ahead of a crucial week of local elections in which the Conservatives are expected to have disastrous results, especially in London.
There are fears that the party in the capital could be wiped out for the first time, while normally strong areas such as Barnett, Westminster, Wandsworth and Havering are all in danger of falling.
Meanwhile, the Tories are also expected to slip from second to third in Scotland, where controversy surrounding the SNP, including Nicola Sturgeon breaking her own Covid rules, does not appear to have lingered in the public consciousness.
The Techne UK/Express tracker poll this week has brought good news for Boris Johnson, with the Tories narrowing the gap on Labor by one point to five per cent.
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If he receives enough letters, Conservative MPs will have a confidence vote in the prime minister.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, who told Mr Johnson “the gig is over”, has joined ex-chief Whip Mark Harper, Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen and a number of former Remainer Conservative MPs who have already submitted letters.
But sources in Downing Street hope the Red wall seats in the North and Midlands can help save the day.
A current senior adviser said: “It doesn’t look pretty in London, but there are parts of the country in those Red Wall areas where we’ve never dealt with serious candidates before.
“So we’re going to make some profit that will surprise people and the picture won’t look as bad as people think it will be.”
A pro-Boris Johnson backbencher said: “The problem is that this time our supporters will sit on their hands. They would run in general elections, but not in municipal elections.”