British Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Thursday said it would be “very tough” for the Conservatives to win the July 4 election, after opinion polls predicted a landslide win for the opposition Labour Party.

On another chaotic day for the governing party, its campaign director took a leave of absence, which media reports linked to an investigation around bets being placed on the date of the election before it was announced.

Polls indicate Britain is on course to elect a centre-left Labour government led by Keir Starmer, ending 14 years of rule by the Conservatives, whom many voters blame for political and economic turmoil that has lowered their living standards.

Asked at a Times newspaper event whether the Conservatives could win the election, Hunt said: “It’s going to be very tough.

“I don’t think any of us would pretend that is the most likely outcome. We can certainly do a lot better than the polls are suggesting and we are working very hard to do so.”

Starmer is set to walk into the prime minister’s office at 10 Downing Street with a 200-seat parliamentary majority, the biggest for any party for a century, according to the latest poll by YouGov.

A separate poll predicted Rishi Sunak could become the first British prime minister in history to lose his own seat in a national election. Hunt’s seat is also under threat.

Sunak’s party was already far behind in opinion polls when he called the election, hoping that an upturn in economic data would help it narrow the gap with Labour.

But that has failed to materialise from a Conservative campaign beset by missteps, starting with Sunak’s bedraggled announcement of the election in pouring rain, and most notably his leaving D-Day commemorations in France earlier than other world leaders, for which he apologised.

The latest embarrassment was a Gambling Commission investigation into a second Conservative candidate over bets placed on the timing of the election. The BBC named the candidate as Laura Saunders and said her husband, campaign director Tony Lee, was also being investigated.

“The Director of Campaigning took a leave of absence from CCHQ yesterday,” the Conservative Party said in a statement. Neither Lee nor Saunders could immediately be reached for comment and the gambling regulator did not name those it was investigating. Placing bets with insider knowledge is a crime.

Another candidate has already apologised.


Sunak, Starmer and other leaders were due to face questions from an audience of voters on the BBC later on Thursday.

Starmer, who has pledged not to raise the main taxes paid by working people, has sought to manage expectations that a Labour government could have an immediate big impact on issues like the cost of living and standard of public services.

“There’s no magic wand that we can wave the day after the election and fix all the country’s problems. And nobody would believe us if we said there is,” he told ITV’s Peston programme.

The Conservatives have sought to turn the spotlight onto tax, saying a Labour government would cost households more.

Starmer said his focus would be on expanding the economy rather than on increasing taxes.

“If all you do is tax the existing pie or cut the spending of the existing pie, which is ever-reducing, you are going round and round in circles,” he said.