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Boris Johnson likely to win fewer seats than Theresa May: ex-govt adviser

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Based on private polling for his office, Mr Johnson is expected to fare poorly if the election is held now.

London

BRITISH Prime Minister Boris Johnson would win fewer seats than his predecessor Theresa May if an election was held now, based on private polling for his office, a former government adviser said on Monday.

Mrs May won 318 out of parliament's 650 seats in 2017, forcing her to rely on a small Northern Irish party to govern. Mr Johnson lost that majority last week after Conservative Party defections and the decision to kick out 21 of his lawmakers who rebelled over Brexit.

"We are looking at picking up roughly 295-300 seats," Jason Stein, who was an adviser to former works and pensions minister Amber Rudd who quit the government on Saturday, told Sky News, citing private polling for Mr Johnson's 10 Downing Street office.

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"Number 10 themselves privately will tell you that it will be a tough election. They are not expecting this to be the land of milk and honey." He said the Conservatives were going to lose seats in Scotland, London and south-west England.

The month-long suspension of the British parliament ordered by Mr Johnson in an apparent bid to stop MPs blocking his Brexit strategy will begin late Monday, his spokesman said.

"Parliament will be prorogued at close of business today (Monday)," the spokesman said, using the parliamentary term for the suspension.

He added it would take place regardless of the outcome of a government-led vote on holding a snap election next month.

Opposition leaders have agreed to stick to their plan to oppose Mr Johnson's call for a general election when it's voted on later on Monday, the Labour Party said in a statement.

"All leaders agreed that they would not support Boris Johnson's ploy to deny the people their decision by crashing us out of the EU with No Deal during a general election campaign," Labour said. "They agreed to work together today to hold the government to account in Parliament."

Mr Johnson last month asked Queen Elizabeth to close the Houses of Parliament until Oct 14, claiming it was needed to allow him to introduce a new domestic agenda.

But the suspension's timing and longer than usual duration sparked uproar across the political spectrum, with critics calling it a "constitutional outrage" and a coup.

Lawmakers opposed to a no-deal Brexit said it was clearly aimed at hobbling their efforts to prevent such a scenario, while it also prompted several so far unsuccessful court challenges.

However, the move appeared to backfire on Mr Johnson by galvanising opposition MPs and Conservative rebels into passing legislation forcing him to seek a Brexit delay next month if he has not reached a deal with the EU.

That law received royal assent on Monday.

Labour's Catherine West described the decision to suspend parliament as "utterly irresponsible at a time of political crisis''.

Her colleague Alison McGovern said that, rather than "being suspended and sent away," the conference recess could be cancelled to deal with the tight Brexit timetable. "Anyone who says this is normal has got it wrong,'' she said on Twitter.

In the House of Lords, opposition lawmakers said they would boycott the prorogation ceremony, which involves dressing in ermine and the use of 12th century Norman French. REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG