Rishi Sunak has warned his MPs to expect a “tough battle” in today’s three byelections, as he tried to look ahead to the looming general election.

The Prime Minister told the 1922 Committee of backbenchers he would to set out his vision for his first full term in office in the coming months.

However his message was undermined by new polling showing his personal ratings have never been lower.

Labour hope to win Uxbridge & South Ruislip near London and Selby & Ainsty in Yorkshire, with the Liberal Democrats focused on Somerton & Frome in Somerset.

The bookmakers expect the Tories to lose all three in conteests caused by the sitting MP resigning in controversial circumstances.

Boris Johnson resigned in Uxbridge over a Covid rule-breaking inquiry, his ally Nigel Adams quit in Selby after failing to secure a peerage, and David Warburton quit in Somerton after admitting cocaine use.

The Tory majority in Uxbridge was 7,000 in 2019 and 20,000 in the other seats, yet all are vulnerable after a year of turmoil and economic pain

After the 1922 committe, Tory MP Jonathan Gullis said the problem was “apathetic Conservative voters” rather than enthusiasm for Labour.

“Rishi just said what we already know, which is it’s going to be a tough battle. No one likes a by-election. Also the circumstances of these by-elections are not necessarily ideal.

“One thing that’s very certain is there’s no love for Sir Keir Starmer – it’s about motivating Conservative voters about coming out of their homes and to make sure they understand why the Conservative Party is the right choice.”

Mr Sunak told his MPs ahead of the summer recess: “In the coming months, I am going to set out more of what I would do if I had a full term.

"I was recently described as a full spectrum modern Conservative and you are going to see that in the programme I lay out.

“You are going to see that I am committed to providing people with both security and opportunity. We are going to show the hard-working people of this country that our values are their values.

"As we show the British people that, they will see who is really on their side and that is what will propel us to victory.”

If the Tories lose all three seats, it will be the worst byelection result for a government since Labour lost three byelections in a single night in 1968.

The PM’s press secretary admitted it would be tough for the Tories to hold on in the three seats.

She said: “By-elections, for incumbent governments, are very difficult, that is the nature of them. The election that the Conservative Party is most focused on is the general election.”

Meanwhile a new YouGov poll found only a quarter of Britons surveyed last week had a favourable view of Mr Sunak, with two-thirds have an unfavourable opinion.

His net favourability was  minus 40, the lowest level since he took office, the polling firm said.

His approval score dropped from -34 in late June.

Sir Keir Starmer’s rating was also down, from -14 in June to -22.