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Conservatives face ‘fight of their lives’
January 04, 2018
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LONDON: Theresa May could lose more than half of her London boroughs with the Conservatives facing the “fight of their lives” in the capital at this year’s local elections, according to a Tory peer.

In a dire set of predictions for the Prime Minister, Conservative peer and election expert Robert Hayward said it is likely that the party could lose two of its nine councils in London in spring, and could be fighting to cling on to a further three.

Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Lord Hayward, who has previously advised Tory HQ, said the Conservatives could even be defeated by Labour in Margaret Thatcher’s former local borough, Barnet Council.

He added that it is “impossible to call” Kensington and Chelsea after the fire at Grenfell Tower last year. Currently the council is dominated by Conservatives, but it is likely they will face a considerable backlash after the widely criticised handling of the tragedy.

He said: “Nationally the Conservatives appear to be getting themselves back together, so they may be in a better position come May to ease the loses.

“But they are going to have the fight of their lives to hold on to Wandsworth and Westminster. On the evidence, it looks like a bad night for them and a good night for Jeremy Corbyn in London.”

The comments come after the Labour leader told in an interview that he was hoping to make gains in the elections in May, in which all of the 32 London boroughs will be contested.

Asked what he would like to see in the local elections, Corbyn replied: “Well, the biggest elections are going to be in the main cities, particularly London, Birmingham, Newcastle - we’re going to be working very hard on them. In London particularly, they are going to focus on housing.

“But it’s also emphasising the way local authorities have been so underfunded by this government, that they are all facing real difficulties that we are going to emphasise in the election. This is the product of seven years of austerity.

“I’m hoping to do very, very well, but I’m not putting a figure on it,” he said.

The last time all the London boroughs were up for grabs, in 2014, Labour gained three councils while the Conservatives under David Cameron lost two, leaving them with nine in the capital.

May has stood firm on plans to include foreign students in immigration figures despite warnings she could face a damaging Commons defeat on the policy.

The Prime Minister is understood to be increasingly isolated in her belief that overseas students should be counted as migrants in official immigration statistics, a position she has held since she was Home Secretary.

Speculation is mounting over a government U-turn on the policy, after Home Secretary Amber Rudd reportedly warned May that she would likely lose a vote on the issue when the new Immigration Bill comes before MPs later this year due to her slender parliamentary majority.

However, May’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The position of the Prime Minister on this is clear. The international definition of an immigrant is someone who arrives for a period of more than 12 months.”

Several cabinet ministers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond have previously told the Prime Minister to abandon the position, which would help the government meet its long-held ambition of reducing annual net immigration below 100,000.

The Independent

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