Lord Ashcroft’s polls are, as a rule, very rarely good news for the Tories these days – the peer clearly hopes that he’s at least warned the party before it goes over the top – and his latest tranche of surveys in marginal seats proves that rule. The peer examined 12 marginal seats where the Conservatives lead Labour with majorities as low as 1,936 and as high as 3,744. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Across the 12 seats, Labour led the Tories by 36 per cent to 33 per cent, with just three seats remaining with the Tories: Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) and Blackpool North & Cleveleys (Paul Maynard). But the Labour leads are very slim. The biggest was a 9 per cent lead on a 7 per cent swing in Bury North.
2. More voters are plumping for David Cameron as leader. 30 per cent said they were satisfied with his performance as Prime Minister, and 29 per cent said they were dissatisfied with his performance but still preferred him to Ed Miliband.
That included 30 per cent of Labour voters, with 65 per cent of those voters saying they’d prefer Ed Miliband to David Cameron, while 70 per cent of Lib Dem voters preferred David Cameron (32 were satisfied and 38 per cent were dissatisfied but would rather have Cameron than Miliband). Only 14 per cent of Ukip voters said they were satisfied with Cameron as PM, with 48 per cent saying they’d still rather the Tory leader than the Labour leader (which might suggest the ‘vote Ukip, get Miliband’ has some traction’) and 25 per cent saying they preferred Ed Miliband to David Cameron.
Only 1 per cent of Tory voters would prefer Miliband as Prime Minister, with 66 per cent saying they were satisfied with Cameron and 32 per cent saying they’d still rather have Cameron even though they were dissatisfied.
3. The biggest share of the vote for Ukip was 30 per cent in Cannock Chase where the party is in second place to Labour, which is on 32 per cent and the Tories are on 27 per cent. The current Tory MP Aidan Burley is standing down in 2015 after attending a Nazi-themed stag party.
4. Labour is set to gain nine seats even though across the constituencies, more voters had heard from the Tories than Ed Miliband’s party. Ashcroft found that 22 per cent had received leaflets, newspapers, letters, emails, knocks on their door or phone calls from the Tories, 14 per cent from Labour, 4 per cent from the Lib Dems and 8 per cent from Ukip. Even seats where there was a marked gap between the higher volume of contact from the Tories and that from Labour, Labour is still set to win. In Wirral West (Esther McVey), for instance, 50 per cent of voters had heard from the Tories against 20 per cent who had heard from Labour (11 per cent Lib Dems, 6 per cent Ukip and 38 per cent had receive nothing), yet the poll put Labour on a very narrow win at 39 per cent to the Tories’ 38 per cent (Ukip 12, Lib Dems 6, Other 5).
5. Ukip voters are the most likely to feel the British economy will fare badly for the country as a whole and for their family. On the question of how the economy would fare for the country as a whole, 50 per cent said it would fare badly, and 48 per cent said it would fare well. When it came to the voters themselves and their families, 51 per cent of Ukip voters said the economy would fare well, and 46 per cent said badly. Labour voters were a little less pessimistic, with 50 per cent saying the economy would fare well for the country as a whole against 47 per cent who said it would fare badly, and 55 per cent said it would fare well for themselves and their family against 41 per cent who said it would do badly.
What does this mean for the overall outcome in 2015? Ashcroft says the Conservatives can afford to lose no more than 21 seats to Labour in order to remain the largest party, but they are currently behind in 38. He adds, rather ominously, that ‘we have not yet reached the point at which the Tory losses end’.