Senior Tory MPs are privately admitting they have already lost the next general election, HuffPost UK can reveal.
One former Tory cabinet minister said that a Conservative Party defeat in 2024 is fast becoming a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
Other top Tories have drily commented that the current government led by Rishi Sunak is “managing decline”.
HuffPost has been told about multiple cases in which senior Tories and even ministers have openly predicted or joked about losing the next election.
Some outgoing MPs will state publicly that the party is going to lose including Sir Charles Walker who said it is “almost impossible” for Sunak to win.
“There will be more big names who throw in the towel this summer,” one former cabinet minister predicted.
Fifteen Tory MPs have sp faannounced they will quit at the next election – including rising star Dehenna Davison who is a junior minister at just 29.
A Conservative Party insider added: “MPs are accepting the view that it’s going to be tough or they are going to lose next election.
“If you get names like Iain Duncan Smith standing down – more will join the bonfire.”
An MP added: “I think it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of job hunting going on.”
Tory MPs have been spooked by some recent polls that have given Labour a 25-point lead over the Conservatives.
A recent by-election in Chester saw a 14-point swing towards Labour which pollsters say would give Labour a comfortable majority at an election.
The local elections in May 2023 will give MPs a further indication of where the public is heading at the next general election.
However, one Labour frontbencher said that while the next general election is “ours to lose” there was plenty of time for them to “screw up”.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has even told his MPs to tattoo “no complacency” to their heads.
“It is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy,” one former Tory cabinet minister told HuffPost UK.
“If colleagues keep saying we’re not going to win the next election – then that’s what’s going to happen.
“Although, it is also hard to see how we bounce back from those polls. The party is tired and we’re out of ideas. We won’t hold on to most of those red wall seats.
“And Labour voters who stayed at home last time because they didn’t like Corbyn will feel they can vote for Starmer.”
Another Tory former minister agreed, adding: “Where are the ideas? We’re not actually doing anything.”
However, MPs on the right of the party are less worried about Labour and more worried about former Ukip and Reform UK leader Nigel Farage staging a comeback.
One Tory MP said: “If Nigel was serious then that could take a lot of votes from us. I would be really worried about that – it would result in a Labour landslide.
“But I really don’t think Nigel could handle the rejection again – he’s tried seven times to become an MP.
“I’m not sure he’d seriously do it again. And Richard Tice [leader of Reform UK] just doesn’t have the same appeal.”
However, the MP might have a point after Tice told The Telegraph he was having conversations with Tory councillors and MPs about joining his party.
And earlier in the week a Barnsley councillor resigned from the Conservatives to join the Reform party.
While the Tory civil war seems to have publicly abated, senior MPs warn that it is merely a ceasefire.
There is a strong sense of mistrust in the party with a lot of MPs still loyal to Boris Johnson blaming the people around Sunak for taking him down.
There is even a number of “diehard” Johnson fans who still see him as their only hope of electoral success – although MPs say such colleagues are “deluded”.
“People think we’re mad for getting rid of him,” one Johnson backing MP said.
“Boris could walk down the road naked in my constituency killing the first borns and people would still love him and vote for him.”
Some Tory MPs are keen to have Johnson campaign in their constituencies at the next election because he is a “vote winner”.
“You can see the true believers sit around him in the chamber,” one Tory staffer said.
There are even MPs who think there is a slim chance Johnson could stage a comeback if he survives a privileges committee probe into whether he misled MPs over the Partygate scandal.
However, one Tory backbencher hit back: “Some of my colleagues have this delusion that if we do really badly in the local elections Boris will have this Second Coming as we’ll all be begging for him to come back.
“It’s for the birds, frankly. He was never fit for office.”
The Tory MP said they did not have “buyer’s remorse” for backing Sunak despite their position in the polls and added: “Rishi is our best hope, our only hope, there is no viable alternative.”
Other MPs repeat the saying that “divided parties don’t win elections” and warn that the party remains ungovernable due to its diverse factions.
“That majority we won in 2019 saw so many people elected that aren’t actually proper Conservatives,” one backbencher said.
“There’s a big section of our party that didn’t have that experience or background.”
Such divisions are already causing Sunak headaches with rebellious MPs forcing him into U-turns over everything from house building targets to onshore wind.
Against this backdrop, businesses, PRs and donors are now seeking to establish relationships with the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, donations to the Tory Party have slumped to their lowest level in two years and the party is reportedly considering hiking its membership fees as it struggles to raise funds.
However, not all Tory MPs share the view that their party is doomed with one former minister saying: “We need to keep our heads down and focus on the economy.
“When the next election comes around we will have been in power for 14 years. We really lost our hand with the Truss government, we need to rebuild that.
“We’re in a better position than we were with Truss but it’s going to be tough. If we can turn the economy around then perhaps we are in with a shot.
“A few weeks ago I’d have said Labour were going to win the next election, now I am not so sure. It all depends on the economy.”
Another more optimistic MP said his party needed to stop scoring “own goals” and that their election hopes were not over until the “final whistle blows”.
A fresh poll by Savanta ComRes, released on Friday, might provide some comfort for Tory MPs after it found a 10-point swing from Labour to the Conservatives – a gap of just 11 per cent.
“Yes, people are annoyed with us but but I don’t think it’s a done deal with Labour” a Tory MP said.