Tories not defeated yet, says Gove as he insists election not in ‘Fergie time’

The Conservatives are not defeated yet, Michael Gove has said as he insisted the election had not entered “Fergie time”.

Having started the election well behind Labour, the Conservatives have seen their polling numbers worsen rather than improve over the campaign, with four major polls this week suggesting the party is on course for its worst result ever.

But Mr Gove, the Housing Secretary, told broadcasters on Thursday that the Conservatives still had a chance, referencing former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Gove said: “There are opinion polls, as I’ve acknowledged and as we both know, that are not great, but it’s not the 90th minute, we’re not in ‘Fergie time’ yet.”

He added: “I’m a Scotland fan, so you wait until the final whistle.

“Sometimes it looks as though the odds are against you, but you keep on fighting.”

But some of Mr Gove’s Cabinet colleagues have been less upbeat about their party’s prospects.

Minister for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Michael Gove during a housing visit in West London
Michael Gove struck a more optimistic note than some of his Cabinet colleagues (Aaron Chown/PA)

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps suggested on Monday that a Conservative victory was unlikely, while Wales Secretary David TC Davies acknowledged on Wednesday that the polls were pointing to a “large Labour majority”.

The polls, combined with warnings from some Conservative figures that Labour would have “unchecked power” if it won a large majority, have sparked speculation that the Conservatives are now engaged in damage limitation rather than attempting to win the election.

But Mr Gove insisted the party would continue to fight until “the final whistle”.

He said: “This election is not an election between Savanta and YouGov, it’s between Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak and there is therefore a choice of policies and, for example on housing, my brief, I think we’ve got better ideas.”

But Mr Gove later said that a Conservative victory would be “a stretch”, adding: “We are absolutely the underdogs.

“It’s incredibly tough, we’re up against it. But it is possible and you’ve got to believe that in order to ensure that you do the electorate a service.”

Labour has also sought to play down polling forecasts of a landslide, with shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook telling Times Radio on Thursday that he took polls “with a pinch of salt”.

He said: “I think our message of change, of turning the page on 14 years of Tory chaos is resonating.

“But there are still lots of people out there uncertain, undecided, which is why we are fighting for every single vote and will continue to do so, fighting like we’re 10 points behind in all of our target seats across the country.

“Because there really is only one poll that matters, and that is the poll that takes place on July 4.”