Lord Ashcroft has released another batch of constituency polls: four Conservative seats in England & Wales, and eight more Scottish constituencies. All the detailled results are here.
England and Wales
The four Conservative seats all have majorities between 8.8% and 10.6%, but other than the similarity in majority don’t have a huge amount in common. Two are relatively straightforward marginals: in High Peak Ashcroft finds a swing of five points from Con to Lab, bigger than the national average and enough to give Labour a one point lead; in Vale of Glamorgan Ashcroft finds a swing of only 1.5 points from Con to Lab, well short of the national average and hence leaving the Conservatives with a six point lead.
The other two seats are a bit more unusual. Colne Valley actually had the Liberal Democrats in second place in 2010 and could be fairly described as a three-way marginal. Given the Liberal Democrats’ national woes though Labour are obviously the main threat to the Conservatives – Ashcroft found a five point swing to Lab, leaving them just a point behind the Conservatives. Finally there was Norwich North – most of the Con-Lab marginals Ashcroft has polled are seats the Conservatives gained in 2010, so places where the Conservatives can reasonably expect to benefit from new incumbency. Norwich North is an exception, it was gained in a 2009 by-election so Labour had already lost their incumbency, and any Conservative incumbency was already factored into the equation in 2010. Here Ashcroft found a swing of 5.5 to Labour, again bigger than the national picture suggests and enough to put Labour a single point ahead.
Moving to Scotland, Lord Ashcroft polled eight seats. Two Lib Dem seats, five Labour seats and the sole Tory seat in Scotland.
The first batch of Ashcroft’s Scottish polling last month concentrated upon Labour seats in those areas where there was a high YES vote in the referendum, leaving open the question of whether the SNP would be doing quite so well in those areas that had voted NO. Today’s polls are from areas that voted NO and show the SNP surge almost as strong here. In the NO areas polled in January Ashcroft found a swing from Lab to the SNP of 25%, here he finds a swing of 22%. It may be a little smaller, or it maybe a little movement back to Labour, but this is still a huge swing and would still see some extremely safe Labour seats fall, most notably Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the seat being vacated by Gordon Brown.
Ashcroft also polled East Renfrewshire, the seat of Labour’s Scottish leader Jim Murphy. This used to be a Tory seat, voted heavily NO in the referendum, and in 2010 the SNP were 42 points behind Labour. Ashcroft found Labour holding on by a single point over the SNP, with a 20.5% swing from Lab to the SNP.
Moving to the two Lib Dem seats, Ashcroft found a 14 point SNP lead in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and a 5 point SNP lead in Ross, Skye and Lochaber. The latter is a seat that people often include in seats they would expect to withstand the SNP tide due to the solid majority and incumbency of Charlie Kennedy. His presence clearly does have a substantial effect – the Lib Dem share rises 10 points in the seat when people are asked to consider their own constituency and candidates – but not enough to put him ahead.
Finally the lone Conservative seat in Scotland, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale is spoken of as a potential hold for similar reasons to East Renfrewshire. It’s an area that voted heavily NO in the referendum where the SNP were in fourth place in 2010 and while Labour support has collapsed across Scotland, the rump Tory support seems broadly static. Even here though Ashcroft found the SNP competitive, equal with the Tories on 34% with a swing of 13.5% from Con to SNP.
In discussions of Scotland at the general election I keep seeing assumptions that the SNP will actually win 20 to 30 seats, that their support will naturally fall back to some extent as the election approaches, that this degree of landslide won’t really happen. That might end up being true – I am normally the first to sound a note of caution to people getting excited over polls showing some unbelievable shift in public opinion – but in this case, the polling is very steady and consistent in showing a surge in SNP support, the constituency polling backs up the national polls and the reality of First Past the Post is that a big lead in the vote can be exaggerated into an overwhelming dominance in seat numbers.
UPDATE: The YouGov/Sun poll tonight has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 34%, LD 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%, so back to neck-and-neck after two Tory leads. Not, of course, that the day-to-day back and forth really matters – it almost certainly isn’t the case that the Conservatives moved ahead for two days and moved back, the question is actually whether the average that lies beneath the day-to-day noise is moving. Only time will answer that question.