Conservative candidates could struggle in ‘traditional Tory strongholds’ across the south of England, an expert at Reading University has said.

The expert's opinions follow four of Berkshire’s six Conservative MPs having announced they won’t stand in the general election on July 4.

Dr Kiwi Ting argued that the Conservative Party is struggling to hold onto supporters in its southern strongholds while at the same time keeping those in former Labour seats.

He said: “Any Tories looking at the polls right now are going to be nervous – even in relatively safe Tory seats.”

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The Conservatives hold six of the eight current MP seats in Berkshire. But four of them – Theresa May, Alok Sharma, Adam Afriyie and John Redwood – have all decided not to seek re-election.

Mr Redwood denied that his decision to stand down on Friday May 24, two days after the general election was announced, was out of concern that he would lose his seat – calling the claim ‘Lib Dem propaganda'.

And Bracknell MP James Sunderland – who is not standing down – said his departing Berkshire colleagues 'are senior MPs who have been around for quite some time and have made their decisions for different reasons'.

But he acknowledged that it would be ‘a fight’ to hold onto his own seat in Bracknell. Conservatives in places such as Bracknell, Wokingham and Windsor face tougher challenges than in previous years from Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates.

Dr Ting – a lecturer in comparative politics at the University of Reading – says Conservatives in many ‘traditional’ Tory seats across face the same.

He believes that Conservative voters with ‘socially liberal’ opinions in these areas have been put off by the ‘culture war’ issues that the Tories believe they needed to win in ‘Red Wall’ former Labour strongholds at the last election in 2019.

Dr Ting said: “Across southern England a lot of traditional Tory strongholds also voted for remain to some extent in the Brexit referendum in 2016.

“They’re relatively pro-remain and relatively socially liberal and it’s a huge contrast between those backgrounds and culturally conservative populist trends within the Conservatives in the past couple of years.”

He added: “The dilemma that the Tory party is currently in is they are trying to hang onto the coalition of voters that Boris Johnson built in 2019. But these are different groups of voters that have contradictory views on different issues.”

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Dr Ting stressed that he couldn’t make specific predictions for the constituencies in Berkshire – but he said the seats could witness ‘tactical voting’.

Speaking last week Wokingham MP John Redwood cast doubt on Liberal Democrats’ confidence that they can take the Conservatives’ seat.

He said: “Every time I fought this seat – and I fought it nine times – the Liberal Democrats said they were going to win.

“They always start off with some leaflet based on some polling saying Liberal Democrats are going to win here – and they never are.”