Conservative chairman Richard Holden admits challenge is tough but insists victory is within grasp
New Conservative chairman Richard Holden admits the challenge is tough but insists victory is within “grasp”.
Rishi Sunak has shown he is on the side of Daily Express readers by sticking with the triple lock, introducing tax cuts and clamping down on people who abuse the benefits system, he said.
High numbers of undecided voters are still up for grabs and the Tories believe there is little appetite among the group for Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer.
Mr Holden vowed to do everything possible to keep every red wall seat won in 2019 and make gains.
He told the Daily Express: “It’s about the enthusiasm for the challenge ahead. I think that with the fifth general election victory is really within our grasp, which will be history making.”
Mr Sunak could call an election any time over the next year but anticipation of a spring poll intensified after tax cuts for workers were announced last month.
“We have to be ready for whatever the Prime Minister wants to go for the election in the new year,” Mr Holden said.
The chairman admitted winning is a tough challenge but insisted it can be done.
“Nothing is impossible,” he said. “This is the oldest political party in the world.”
Mr Holden said he is convinced that when voters come to make a choice between Labour leader Sir Keir and Mr Sunak, they will back the Conservatives.
“Britain is doing pretty well while Labour still wants to talk us down,” he said.
“We’re in a much better place now and we need to just concentrate on what unites us.”
He said “slippery Starmer” will tell every audience “what they want to hear and then go back on it”.
“He did exactly that when he was backing Corbyn,” Mr Holden said. “He kept in that shadow cabinet all the way through.”
Sir Keir faced criticism from the left yesterday (SUN) after using a newspaper interview to praise Margaret Thatcher for trying to “drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.
Mr Holden said: “He’s clearly a very experienced human rights barrister who sees every single election as a different case to prosecute against a different jury.”
He insisted the Prime Minister is taking decisions with Express readers in mind, such as honouring the triple lock in full with an 8.5 per cent increase from April.
“I hope they are seeing we are on their side,” he added. “Rishi is on their side, I’m certainly on their side.
“We’ve got a job to do to really show them that over the next however long it is to the next general election.
“Rishi is the man to win the fifth term, I have no doubt about that at all.”
The party chairman, the youngest in a century at just 38 years old, admitted he feels a “massive weight of responsibility” taking on the job.
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Although the polls have consistently put Labour at around 20 points ahead over the last year, they also show a significant number of people remain undecided.
Recent research by YouGov showed around a quarter of 2019 Conservative voters do not know who they will back.
The polling firm said the “don’t know” group is twice the size of that which has switched directly to Labour. Winning them back would stop Labour in its tracks.
“If you drill down into it, people who voted Conservative in 2019 would prefer Rishi Sunak as prime minister,” Mr Holden said.
He added: “Every part of the country, even if they’re grumpy, and understandably so, about infighting in the Conservative Party over the last couple of years, which I think starting to die down as we’ve started to push on to the economy, there’s no love for Starmer there and there is a deep distrust for him as well.
Mr Holden vowed to do everything possible to keep every red wall seat won in 2019 and make gains
“And my message to my colleagues really is do not let Starmer in by default.”
Mr Holden believes the party could double the number of seats in Scotland, where it currently holds six seats.
He insisted the red wall seats the Tories took from Labour last time round can be retained.
“There is no seat at all that we currently hold, or we held in 2019, that we are not campaigning in at the moment,” he said.
“But I’m absolutely convinced that the areas of the country which voted Conservative last time, we can get them back because those 2019 voters do not want Starmer, the man who was a Corbyn’s side, and wanted the second referendum and pledged open borders and said we shouldn’t have any any limits on economic migration.
“There is no there is no love for Keir Starmer. We just have to make sure that people see united, on the front foot with that clear message that we’re on their side, we understand their concerns, and that we’re in it for them.”
One in eight voters who backed the party last time are currently planning to switch to Reform UK.
Its honorary president Nigel Farage is taking part in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, which is giving the former Ukip leader a new audience.
In the south, Liberal Democrats are throwing their efforts into causing election upsets in high profile seats such as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in Surrey.
Mr Holden warned that “a vote for them is a vote for Starmer” as backing the smaller parties would allow Labour in by default.
He added: “For everybody who voted Conservative in 2019 and isn’t 100 per cent convinced they’re going to do so again, all of them prefer Rishi to Starmer.
“And that’s the strongest with the Reform voter group. But they need to know that we can win.
“They need to know that when it comes to keeping the debt under control, growing the economy, on inflation, on stopping the boats and illegal migration that we are pulling out all the stops to get there.
“All of them prefer Rishi to Starmer, they just do not trust Starmer on that stuff.
He added: “My job is to ensure that we’re in the most competitive place so that people know that choice is tight, and know that their vote matters.
“They need to know that their vote matters. And that means they need to know that if they don’t vote Conservative, they’re going to get Labour.”