Sunak puts pressure on Labour as the gap between parties closes

Labour’s lead was more than 20 points at the turn of the year. Mr Sunak’s Brexit success in negotiating a Northern Ireland customs deal and his tough approach to the small boats crisis has helped boost fortunes.

Labour’s controversial attack ads have also backfired with voters.

A cross-party focus group branded one, suggesting Mr Sunak does not believe paedophiles should be jailed, as “desperate” and “poor taste”.

Labour HQ will be concerned by the YouGov poll. Its general trend shows the gap narrowing, largely due to what one Tory strategist called the “Rishi factor”. They added: “Starmer and Labour should be worried.”

However, the boost comes too late for next week’s local elections with the party on course to lose around 1,000 seats. But it gives Conservatives hope of a strong showing at the general election, widely expected in 2024.

YouGov’s poll of voting intention puts Labour on 41 percent and the Conservatives on 27 percent. The Lib Dems are at 11 percent, with Reform UK and the Greens each at 7 percent.

The numbers suggest as many as 16 percent of voters remain undecided.

Local elections in England represent the first major test of Mr Sunak’s premiership. Seats in more than 230 council areas are up for grabs, with Tory chiefs publicly warning the party could lose up to 1,000 councillors.

A worse than expected set of results for the Tories would risk destabilising the unity Mr Sunak has brought and reigniting leadership questions.

Just weeks ago, Labour activists were privately predicting a bloodbath, with the Tories losing 2,000 seats.

But there is a growing optimism within the Tory ranks that Mr Sunak is beginning to win voters back around.

Lord Hayward, the leading Conservative pollster, said Mr Sunak faced a tough night on May 4, but “the mood is becoming more positive”.

Yesterday, at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow, Mr Sunak condemned the SNP for its “record of failure”, insisting his party will deliver for Scotland. He later addressed the Welsh Tory conference in Newport.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir was campaigning at a pottery in Derbyshire.

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