The chairman of the Tories -the conservative party- in the UK, Greg Hands, said his party is on course to lose more than a thousand seats in next month’s local elections.
The surprising admission came as the Conservatives continue to trail well behind Labour in the opinion polls.
More than 8,000 seats and 230 councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are up for grabs on May 4 when local council elections are held.
The Tories currently hold 3,290 of them, with Labour on 2,062 and the Lib Dems on 1,205. Independents and others make up the remaining 1,600 seats.
Appearing on Sky News Sunday, Hands said the Tories are heading for a bad election night.
He said: “There’s a huge number of Conservative councillors up for re-election in a few weeks’ time. The Conservatives remain the largest party of local government.
“The independent expectations are that the Conservatives will lose more than a thousand seats and that Labour need to make big gains.
“That is what the expectation is out there, but I’ve been up and down the country and the Conservatives are fighting really hard.”
That is a reference to a forecast by the elections experts Rallings and Thrasher, who said a 6% swing to Labour would see the Tories lose more than 1,000 seats and the opposition gain more than 700.
However, presenter Trevor Phillips accused Hands of trying to “massage expectations” so that if the Conservatives do better than expected, they can claim it as a triumph.
A Lib Dem source said: “This admission of defeat shows the Conservatives have already thrown in the towel before a single vote has been cast.
“This Conservative government has crashed the economy, plunged the NHS into the crisis and allowed filthy sewage to be pumped into our rivers.
“Rishi Sunak is facing a Blue Wall bloodbath as people who voted Conservative all their life say never again, and turn to the Liberal Democrats instead.”
HuffPost UK revealed last month that Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s elections co-ordinator, had warned the shadow cabinet that the opinion polls had “tightened” in recent weeks.
One Labour source said: “People probably have their expectations in the wrong places. They expect this to be a complete bloodbath for the Tories, with Labour hoovering up hundreds of seats.
“But the key thing to look out for is where Labour is winning and what our vote share is compared to the 2019 general election.”