Theresa May is braced for an electoral backlash over Brexit as voters prepare to go to the polls on Thursday.
Senior Tories acknowledged the party faces a “difficult” night in the local elections in England, with one expert predicting the party will lose more than 800 seats.
Worse could follow if May 23’s European elections take place, with opinion polls suggesting the Conservatives lie a distant third behind the Brexit Party and Labour.
Tory chairman Brandon Lewis acknowledged “huge frustration” among grassroots members and activists as he pleaded with them to back the Conservatives rather than Nigel Farage’s party.
Deputy chairwoman Helen Whately admitted the local elections “are going to be a difficult night for us”.
Election pundit and Tory peer Lord Hayward said he expected the Conservatives to lose more than 800 councillors and “marked losses of control of authorities”.
13% The percentage of people surveyed who would vote for the Tories if there were European Parliament
The Tories are at an historic high for a governing party after nine years in power,” he said.
“A fall from that level is therefore inevitable at some stage and it will come this year – with force.
He suggested Labour would gain around 300 seats from the Tories and the Liberal Democrats 500.
Elections will take place at 248 councils in England and Ms Whately admitted the contests in England were a chance to “kick the Government” and said she had seen “more anger than before” on the doorstep.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, she said: “I think there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a difficult night for us.”
She said it was down to the fact that the seats which were up for grabs this time round were last contested in 2015, the “high point” for her party but acknowledged that frustrations over Brexit were also a factor.
Ms Whately rejected claims that Theresa May was a “problem” and said she was “not sure it would be helpful” for the Prime Minsiter to be more clear in setting out a timetable for her departure.
Mr Lewis insisted it was still a possibility that a Brexit deal could be approved by MPs which would mean the May 23 European elections would not be required, but such an outcome appears highly unlikely given the lack of progress in talks with Labour.