The Tories are still in for a chance to gain seats at the local elections if British homeowners vote

The thinking was disastrous local election results would shock Tory MPs into realising they cannot go on like that and that they needed a new leader.

But even Mrs May’s most ardent critics have now accepted that next week’s local elections are unlikely to trigger her downfall.

Why? Because expectations are so low for the Tories, they are almost bound to surpass them.

Mrs May’s own position is also stronger than it was in January thanks to her handling of the Salisbury attack.

At the start of the local election campaign, the talk was of how the Tories were facing a wipe-out in London, how they would do well to end up holding on to even one council.

But senior figures involved in the campaign now admit they should do much better than that.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters’ biggest worry in London is simply being outgunned on the day.

They fear Labour’s return to being a mass membership party under Jeremy Corbyn will enable them to get nearly all their voters out, while the Tories will struggle to get more than 40 per cent of their supporters to the polls.

There is, though, still cautious optimism that the Tories will hold at least one of their two flagship London boroughs, Wandsworth and Westminster.

Then they could claim the results were respectable for a government in mid-term.

This is especially true as results outside London are expected to be quite good for the party.

One former Cabinet minister loyal to Theresa May tells me: “Things outside London really aren’t bad.”

The Tories are particularly hopeful of making gains in the West Midlands.

It will be tempting for the Tories to declare the local elections are further proof the capital and the rest of country are diverging politically, and so their decline in London doesn’t matter much as it will be made up for elsewhere.

But this would be a catastrophic mistake.

Labour’s rise in London is quite remarkable.

They have gone from 37 per cent of the vote in 2010 to 55 per cent in 2017.

There are several reasons why the capital is turning red but one of the biggest is the decline in home ownership.

Home ownership in London peaked in the 1990s and has been falling since.

Homeowners became a minority in London in 2011, the first time that has been the case since Margaret Thatcher’s Right To Buy revolution in the early 1980s.

On current trends, 60 per cent of Londoners will be renters in seven years’ time.

It is no coincidence that this rise in renting has coincided with Labour’s surge in the capital.

For one of the things that makes you most likely to vote Tory is owning your own home.

Labour’s surprise success at the last election was largely down to a big increase in turnout among renters who swung heavily to Labour.

Labour London offers a preview of what happens to the Tories when homeowners become a minority.

If the Tories want to win elections they need to get more homes built — and fast.


CABINET Brexiteers are getting increasingly frustrated.

They feel that key decisions are not being taken in Cabinet, or even the Cabinet Committee tasked with managing the negotiation, but elsewhere.

One senior Brexiteer complains to me that Olly Robbins, the Prime Minister’s chief Europe adviser, is, “Running around telling everyone we have to back down on pretty much everything”.

This grumpiness has been exacerbated by this week’s meeting of the Brexit inner Cabinet not discussing the big issue of the moment, customs.

One member of it tells me: “When people left, they all felt a greater level of frustration.”

There is a sense No10 is not respecting the political process.

This all ups the ante ahead of the Brexit inner Cabinet’s meeting next week.

This will discuss Theresa May’s plan for a hybrid customs model which would see the UK leave the customs union but collect tariffs on the EU’s behalf.

Brexiteer ministers regard this as complicated and as having no chance of being accepted by Brussels. They think persisting with it just wastes valuable time.

One tells me Mrs May has been told this hybrid plan is unworkable on eight occasions but doesn’t show any signs of abandoning the idea.

Part of the problem is that Mrs May remains deeply worried about whether she has the votes in the Commons to leave the customs union.

No10 is extremely concerned about the customs union amendment to the trade bill, which is expected to come to a vote in June.

Its hope is the hybrid model is close enough to a customs union to see off a rebellion on this issue but if the model is unworkable, as pretty much everyone thinks, it doesn’t solve anything.

Mrs May would be better off making the argument that Brexit won’t mean Brexit if Britain doesn’t regain the ability to run its own trade policy and that she couldn’t continue as Prime Minister in these circumstances.


CHRIS GRAYLING wants to make it a criminal offence to cheat on auto emissions tests.

This law change, which will be part of Grayling’s road to zero plan to cut exhaust emissions and improve air quality, will enable the Government to prosecute car manufacturers who try to diddle the system.

The law won’t apply retrospectively.

But the Department for Transport hope it will help prevent a repeat of the Volkswagen scandal.


OUR political class needs to remember we are NOT Americans.

The question about Donald Trump isn’t whether we would have voted for him or if we think he is the right person to be President of the United States.

But how we should deal with the country he leads – which is our most important security ally.

No country expelled more Russian diplomats following the Salisbury attack than the United States.

Mrs May should make clear that she is delighted, not embarrassed, to welcome Donald Trump to Britain on his “working visit”.

Why, because a strong relationship with the United States is in this country’s national interest.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on his state visit to Washington this week, didn’t hold back in either cosying up to the president, quite literally at times, or in making clear where he disagreed with him.

This is a far more sensible approach than acting all embarrassed about observing the necessary diplomatic niceties.


DONALD TRUMP’S Twitter feed makes for painful reading at times.
But it is hard to imagine that the North Koreans would have offered to talk about the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula without the pressure that Trump has applied, not only to North Korea, but China too.
The President’s willingness to talk about pressing the nuclear button persuaded Beijing that they needed to get Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table.

Without Trump, yesterday’s moment of history would not have happened.


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