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Opinion: Another Labour landslide could be on cards at general election after poll indicates Conservative losses, writes Paul Francis

How worried should the Conservatives be about the latest opinion poll which suggests the party is in for a hiding at the general election, which we now know is scheduled for autumn?

Of course, all polls come with a health warning, and the stock line when your party is behind is to say the only poll that matters is on election day.

Could the Conservatives be facing a battering at the polls?
Could the Conservatives be facing a battering at the polls?

But if the poll is anywhere near accurate, Rishi Sunak is going to need to pull a political rabbit out of the hat if he is to avoid a historic drubbing of the kind we saw in 1997.

Labour went into that election with a poll lead of between 10% and 15%, but was ultra-cautious not to build up expectations because of what happened in 1992, when John Major unexpectedly won.

This latest survey by the company You Gov points to a majority of 120 for Labour.

The poll indicates bleak prospects for the Tories in Kent, where they could be toppled from key constituencies after 13 years in power. And there are signs the Reform party is steadily building support - which could offer Nigel Farage the chance to return to the political frontline.

In Thanet East - a newly redrawn constituency that replaces the Thanet South seat held by Craig Mackinlay - Labour would win with 44% against the Conservatives on 31%.

In Dover and Deal, another target seat, Labour would have 41% against the Tories on 33%.

And in Canterbury – the only constituency it holds in the county – Labour would win emphatically, with 44% against the Conservative vote of 26%.

The party would have better fortunes in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, where the sitting MP Gordon is standing down. There, the poll prediction would see the Conservatives hold on, with 37% against Labour’s 31%.

The party would also hang on to Maidstone and Malling, heading off a challenge by Labour in a newly redrawn seat, with 37% against 27% for Labour.

For the Lib Dems, the poll suggests the party would just fall short of toppling the incumbent MP Greg Clark in a tight two-way battle which could go either way. It would be a major fillip for the Lib Dems if they were to win and it could be close - the Tories are on 34% with the Lib Dems on 31%.

Dartford could provide Labour with another scalp, taking the seat from the Conservatives by a narrow margin.

And in the neighbouring constituency of Gravesham, there could be another gain by Labour, which lost the seat in 2005 - one of about 30 that went to the Conservatives.

In the Medway Towns, the poll predicts tight battles, with Labour pushing hard but failing to win back Chatham and Aylesford. The party would fare better in Rochester and Strood, where it would oust the Conservatives and do likewise in Gillingham and Rainham.

In the traditional shire Tory strongholds, such as Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and Malling, the party looks secure, as it does with the newly-created Weald of Kent seat.

However, the poll points to a narrow Conservative hold, albeit one with a smaller majority, in Folkestone and Hythe where the Reform Party could influence the outcome - the poll puts it ahead of the Lib Dems by a modest margin. The seat would be retained but with a reduced majority.

Herne Bay and Sandwich, formerly North Thanet, would see Sir Roger Gale pushed close by Labour but would hang on.

And the Tory grip on Ashford could be loosened with Labour pushing hard in a seat where boundary changes have been more favourable to its prospects but not a win. The poll says the Tories would win with 33% of votes against Labour at 31%.

The Reform party looks to be punching above its weight in a string of seats, including Dover and Deal, where the poll suggests it could come third, ahead of the Lib Dems and Green Party.

So, the answer to the question about the impact of the poll on the Conservatives is that it could be significant; even more so if the ground being taken by the Reform party continues.

Having largely dismissed the notion of a Labour landslide as a fanciful one, this poll points to a possibility of a re-run of 1997.

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