Lord Ashcroft has released his final marginal polls before the election, looking at ten marginal seats in England and Scotland. The Tories are set to hold onto four key marginals: Battersea, Croydon Central, Pudsey and Stourbridge. In Croydon Central, Ashcroft has found significant movement towards the Tories: last October, there was a six point Labour lead, which shrunk to a four point lead in March and has now turned into a four point Conservative lead. This movement is thanks to a decline in the Ukip vote share, which has dropped nine points since October.
There’s also good news for the employment minister Esther McVey in Wirral West. The Tories are very keen to hold onto their only seat on Merseyside and the Tories have reduced Labour’s lead from five to three points over the last month — again thanks to a fall in Ukip support. But the Tories are still locked in a tight battle in Norwich North, where the candidate is the former Treasury minister Chloe Smith. Ashcroft says that Labour are two points ahead of the Tories, slightly ahead from his last poll in February. But all these movements are all within the margin of error.
Ashcroft has also looked at some marginal seats at the end of Labour’s target list to see how competitive the marginal battleground is. The picture is mixed — the Tories are ahead in Battersea and Stourbridge but Labour are currently ahead by two points in Peterborough. Ashcroft has also polled North Cornwall, which is now looks as if it will be a seat in the South West that the Liberal Democrats will retain.
And finally, there is some good news for Scottish Labour. In Jim Murphy’s seat, East Renfrewshire, the SNP’s lead has narrowed from nine points to three points. These gains appear to have come from Conservatives, whose vote share is down five points since Ashcroft’s last poll in April. If the result next Thursday is similar to this, the Scottish Labour leader might just hang on. It’s worth noting that Ashcroft never prompts for the names of candidates in his marginal polls — which some pollsters say underestimates incumbents. So there is a good chance that Murphy is actually doing better than this poll suggests.
The Tories are also set to lose the only seat north of the border they picked up in 2010, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale. Here, the SNP has extended its lead from two to eleven points.
So, between now and election day, the only polls we will see are national. The one lesson we can take away from Ashcroft’s final survey is that there’s still plenty of room for movement. Both the Tories and Labour are hoping for a surge in the last six days. But as Ashcroft has said every time he has released his polls: these findings are a snapshot, not a prediction. There is still time for Labour or the Tories to make progress in the marginal battleground.
As you will have followed on Coffee House, Ashcroft’s polls have had a significant impact on the 2015 campaign. While social media and TV debates have made a significant contribution to the fabric of this campaign, his polling has provided a totally unique insight into how the election is being fought. This time next week, we’ll have an idea of how accurate Ashcroft’s research has been.