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Lord Heseltine predicts election in two years, with Government ‘torn apart’

The Conservative peer warns that a shift in public mood on Brexit could leave the party “holding the baby”.

The Conservative Government will face a general election in about two years’ time, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has predicted.

And the Conservative peer warned that by this point, Theresa May’s administration will be “torn apart by leadership speculation and the growing clarity of our weakness in the Brexit talks”.

Writing in The Times, he warned that a shift in public mood on Brexit could leave the Conservatives “holding the baby” as the electorate demands continued EU membership.

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Lord Heseltine has predicted a general election in about two years' time (Ben Birchall/PA)

It should be “alarming” to the Tory leadership that young people joining the electoral roll each year could be worth 1,000 extra votes against Brexit in every constituency, he said.

Downing Street declined to respond to Lord Heseltine’s comments, which come after reports that 15 Conservative MPs may be ready to sign a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister – well short of the 48 required to trigger a leadership contest.

Describing the May Government as “a rabbit frozen in the spotlight”, Lord Heseltine said that the party’s prospects at the next election depend on its ability to “refocus the agenda and govern”, with a programme of increased devolution and reforms to education, housing, local government and skills.

He predicted there would be a window of opportunity following autumn’s elections in Germany for a “re-examination” of the EU’s free movement rules, and said the UK should concentrate on reducing immigration from outside Europe, by intensified policing of the Mediterranean routes and a Marshall Aid-style programme to improve living standards in migrants’ home countries.

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Downing Street declined to respond to Lord Heseltine's comments (PA)

“I believe the Government faces an election in about two years, which suits the self-interest of all the opposition parties,” wrote Lord Heseltine. “The mid-term blues and Brexit will by then change the public’s anti-election mood.

“The Government will be torn apart by leadership speculation and the growing clarity of our weakness in the Brexit talks.”

And he warned: “If, as I anticipate, public opinion on Europe moves against Brexit, be sure Labour will change with it. We could be left holding the baby. It will be too late to recognise the danger when the vote of confidence is called.”

Veteran Tory backbencher Michael Fabricant said that the party should unite behind Mrs May, even though she “f***** up” the General Election.

In response to a tweet from a constituent calling for unity behind Mrs May, the Lichfield MP replied: “She f***** up GE2017, but that does not mean she does not do a great job as PM with a clear vision for Brexit. I agree with you.”

The former whip said there were always “a dozen or so disgruntled MPs ready to sign a letter against any PM”.

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