Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

‘Realist’ Shapps first minister to concede Conservative election victory is ‘unlikely’

Grant Shapps has become the first minister to explicitly concede that a Conservative general election victory is “unlikely”.

The defence secretary, who recently warned that a Labour is on track for a “super majority” on the 4th July, nonetheless contended that an election victory for his party was “possible”. 

Asked if the Conservatives can still win by Times Radio, Shapps said: “Yes, it is possible to win the election. Do I accept it is not the most likely outcome? Yes, I accept that, I am a realist.”

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The defence secretary argued that the longer the campaign goes on, the more people will realise that it is unwise to hand a massive majority to Keir Starmer.

He suggested that should lead to a narrowing in the polls.

Shapps said: “But I also think that when people start to narrow down on this focus, and in particular I’ve noticed this talking to people on the doorstep where they have been perhaps toying with voting in another direction and then realised that just gives Starmer more power.

“No one, I think, at this stage, thinks that it would be in the benefit of this country, the benefit of themselves, their own household budgets… to have a massive Starmer majority.”

He conceded that the “realistic position” was that a Conservative majority was unlikely but not impossible, as in previous elections it was “pollsters who ended up with egg on their faces”.

“We’re fighting for every vote. No one’s voted at all at this stage.”

It comes as the prime minister has been urged to “go for the jugular” and make more personal attacks on Keir Starmer as he returns to the campaign trail today.

Rishi Sunak, who will head to East Yorkshire, the East Midlands and East of England on Monday, has been told to make the election campaign “personal.” 

A cabinet minister told The Times: “I think [the prime minister] was very badly affected by [his D-Day debacle] but he needs to go after Starmer now.”

Another senior Conservative told the newspaper: “Starmer has been given a relatively easy ride. The core problem with Starmer is that he is untrustworthy. He is a grifter who has changed his position when it suits his career.

“Rishi needs to go for the jugular. His natural instincts are not to go for the jugular. That can be useful. But it’s not useful when you’re in a fight to the death. The question is whether the Tories will end up with closer to 100 seats or closer to 200.”

Last week, Shapps urged voters not to hand Labour a “super majority” at the general election.

Asked about the Conservatives’ social media adverts which suggest the party could be reduced to just 57 seats in the next parliament, the defence secretary warned that Keir Starmer could possess “unchecked” power in government as he made the case for a “proper system of accountability”.

He said: “I think the simple point is that if you want to make sure that in this next government, whoever forms it, that there is a proper system of accountability, then we would argue that you don’t want to have somebody receive a super majority.”

He added: “And in this case, of course, the concern would be that if Keir Starmer were to go into No 10 — it will either be Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer, there is no other outcome to this election — and if that power was in some way unchecked it would be very bad news for people in this country.”

Shapps said this would amount to “a blank cheque approach, allowing someone to do anything they wanted, particularly when their particular set of plans are so vague.”

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Grant Shapps warns election could hand Labour ‘unchecked power’ and ‘super majority’