They feared anger at the ongoing Brexit deadlock at Westminster and the country’s failure to leave the EU on schedule on March 29 will lead to hundreds of Tory councillors losing their seats in the polls across England. Elections are being held for seats on 248 authorities in England and 11 in Northern Ireland today, with polling stations open from 7am to 10pm. Some Tories predict the party could lose up to 1,000 seats in the polls.
In a final appeal on the eve of the poll, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis urged voters to focus on local issues when deciding which party to support.
He said: “Do you want your bins collected regularly and your rubbish to be recycled?
“Do you want potholes on your local roads to be repaired? Do you want a tough approach taken to people who fly-tip and illegally dump rubbish on your streets?
“The local shop on your high street to be helped out with things like business rates?
“If the answers to these questions are yes, then you need to get out and vote today. And you need to vote for your local Conservative candidates.”
He added: “Forget the noise that comes from Westminster. Your local councillors make the decisions on these local services we all rely on day-in, day-out.
“And the record is clear – Conservative councillors and councils run these local services better, whilst managing taxpayers money wisely.
“The alternative is the increasingly hard-left Labour party taking over your council.
“They care more about fighting old ideological battles from the 1970s than whether your bin was emptied last week.
“I know for many there has been too much politics over the last few years, but these elections really do matter to the day-to-day local services in your area.
“And it’s worth taking that bit of time to get down to your local polling station and vote for your local Conservative candidates today.”
At the weekend, Tory peer and polling expert Lord Hayward predicted that the Tories would lose around 800 seats in today’s poll, with Labour gaining fewer than 300 and the Lib Dems making the most gains.
Recent opinion polls about voting intentions in the run-up to the polls have put Labour in the lead.
A YouGov poll on April 24 gave Jeremy Corbyn’s party a three per cent lead over the Tories while an Opinium poll a day put the gap at seven per cent.
However, both polls were based on general election rather than local voting intentions. They also gauged support for the Brexit Party and Change UK, neither of which are taking part in the local elections.