Having polled Lab -v- Con seats last month, Lord Ashcroft has now done a similar exercise in ultra-marginal seats between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. He polled 17 seats. 6 are Conservative held seats where the Lib Dems came a close second last time and need not unduly delay us, all show a shift from Lib Dem to Conservative and Conservative holds, the most interesting ones being Watford (which was a three way marginal in 2010 and remains so in this poll) and the two Cornish seats in the sample which both put UKIP in second place, more on that later.

Turning to the Lib Dem seats polled, Lord Ashcroft did fieldwork in the ten most marginal Lib Dem seats with the Conservatives in second place. He also polled the special case of Eastleigh because of the by-election and UKIP, but we’ll set that aside for now. The ten Lib Dem ultra-marginals represent seats with majorities of up to 6.4%, so they’d need a swing of 3.2% from LD to Con for the Tories to take them all at the next election. Based on national polling the Conservatives should do that easily (the national LD=>Con swing is about 5.5%), but as we know, Liberal Democrat MPs rely far more upon their personal support and tactical voting than MPs from other parties, and tend to be better able to confound a national swing.

Across the ten LD ultra-marginals the average swing from LD to Con was 3.4, so the Lib Dems continue to do far better in their own seats than in the country as a whole. However, “doing better” doesn’t mean completely immune from loss. If that was repeated across all LD-Con marginals they’d still lose all those ten to the Tories plus perhaps Eastborne. In practice there is variation between seats, so some seats with smaller majorities the Lib Dems would cling on to, some more distant targets they’d probably lose. Looking at these particular seats Ashcroft found the Lib Dems doing far better than average in Sutton & Cheam, which this suggests they’d hold with ease, and better than average in Cheadle which this also suggests they’d hold. Those two are the most urban of the two seats polled – but with limited data points its difficult to tell if that’s significant. North Cornwall’s swing isn’t far from the average, but would be too close to call.

If the Liberal Democrats lost only 10 or 11 seats at the next election they’d probably be quite pleased… but remember, the Lib Dems also have around 10 English seats where Labour is the challenger and 11 seats in Scotland that could be vulnerable to either Labour or the SNP, so this is not the only battleground for them. It’s the largest Lib Dem battleground, but not the one where they are most vulnerable.

Two other things to note. Seats that have had a by-election are changed by it, so Eastleigh is probably representative of nothing but itself, but for the record Ashcroft found voting intentions there of CON 27%, LAB 10%, LDEM 39%, UKIP 22%. Also worth noting is how well UKIP are doing in the Cornish seats included here. Because it’s a close LD v Con battleground Ashcroft’s sample happened to include five of the six Cornish constituencies, and UKIP were running in second place in three of them. Take the UKIP scores with a slight pinch of salt because the timing of the fieldwork (it was mostly done during or in the fortnight following the European elections, so when UKIP were on a bit of a publicity high), but it’s another potential pointer as to where they could do well.

330 Responses to “Ashcroft poll of Lib Dem marginals”

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  1. “Methinks the lady (or gentleman) doth protest too much”…

  2. @RAF
    “The MPs allegedly calling for EM to resign if Lab does not win the GE, should, if they have any honour, themselves resign if Labour wins.”
    Good point. I guess that ‘yesterday’s men’ (and women) may find it hard to accept that the political world does not revolve around them any longer. But yes, they should apply their own tests to themselves.

  3. @Spearmint

    “@ RAF,
    I’m just baffled that this is a thing. Is there anyone on Earth who thinks he shouldn’t or won’t resign if Labour lose? No? Then you can bloody well shut up about it until after the election, anonymous Shad Cab sources.
    I wonder who it is. (Probably Jim Murphy.)”

    I can only think they’re trying to put pressure on EM to change direction. They are concerned that if EM wins they may be kicked off the front bench.

  4. @Raf

    That was my immediate thought – who was expecting him to stay? Then I remember John Rentoul suggesting that this was Ed’s plan a few months ago and realised it’s New Labour paranoia.

    It strikes me that the old guard are intent on preparing their “I told you so-s” in case of a Labour defeat, when they can be useful in persuading the party back to the true path. It’s a no risk strategy for them, because they know they’re nowhere if Labour win.

  5. As a bit of a counterpoint to all this, I thought Blunkett’s statement about why he is standing down was very dignified.

  6. @Guy
    Do you think? I thought it a bit grudging, which New Statesman picked up too. Why he feels he should be entitled to as many comebacks as Frank Sinatra I don’t know.

  7. @Chatterclass


  8. @Chatterclass

    He’s a millionaire – end of.You can bet your life savings he’s with Cameron on supporting rich men who buy property.

  9. Regarding rich and middle class folk voting Labour. We don’t live in isolation we live in communities and I prefer to live in a community of happy, healthy, well educated, well fed folk. It helps my mood and general happiness.

    Money is relative what I could buy with my extra tax is better spent on making sure a kid is well fed. Because it will make the kid happier than a new handbag would make me – so adding to the general happiness of my community and so to my happiness. That’s why I vote Labour

  10. @Couper,

    You’d be better off voting Tory and donating that money to a charity…

  11. Spearmint, Couper,

    I don’t think the “middle class” tag is very useful. Apparently almost everyone thinks they are middle class anyway.

    For me, the key distinction is whether a person relies on regular work in their family to maintain their standard of living. If yes, then that makes them working class. And everyone else isn’t.

    If you put it like that, then the better-off working class supporting Labour makes sense. And it is also clear why reaching retirement loosens those roots, particularly amongst the those that have a private pension/income.

  12. @PI

    Nope, I reread it and it still looks good to me. Regretful but accepting that the world has moved on.


    Yes, pretty much my view too and I’d rather have a democratic(ish) government deciding how to spend it than an undemocratic charity.


    And I believe a recent poll or polls showed a large Lab lead amongst those who work

  13. @HAL

    I agree regardless of income if you have to work to pay for your lifestyle you are working class

    @Neil A

    No relying in charity won’t make people happy and secure. We need an inclusive society where everyone shares in the wealth and the wealth and we have good public services. IMO

  14. Neil A
    No, because collective contribution is what is required and as we have seen over recent years we can’t rely on the rich to voluntarily put back into the society they have benefitted so much from. I’m perfectly happy to do my bit as long as everyone else has to. Pretty obvious.

  15. Basically taxes on unearned income need to skyrocket.

    If they were just equalised with earned income (let’s have NIC’s on them and capital gains taxed as income) that would be a great start.

    If they were just equalised with earned income (let’s have NIC’s on them and capital gains taxed as income) that would be a great start.

  18. There are ,of course, many precedents for defeated leaders being given a second chance. In addition to Kinnock in 1987 , Gaitskell carried on after suffering a heavy defeat in 1959.Wilson stayed after losing narrowly in 1970 – though he had previously won two elections. On the Tory side, Heath lost badly in 1966 but was allowed to soldier on in spite of persistent doubts about his ability to connect with people. Earlier Churchill lost in both 1945 and 1950 but remained leader.At the end of the day, it’s probably a question as to whether the defeated leader retains the confidence of his senior parliamentary colleagues.
    Re – Ed there might also be the little matter of what might be meant by ‘losing’. If we end up next year with something like Con 295 Lab 285 LibDem 35 will Ed have ‘lost’?

  19. You could argue that the ROC middle class have a sense of entitlement — I deserve what I’ve got. I’ve worked hard and earned it.
    Those on the Left feel they have been fortunate- there but for the grace of God go I.

  20. @Guymonde

    “Yes, pretty much my view too and I’d rather have a democratic(ish) government deciding how to spend it than an undemocratic charity.”

    Umm are you sure? With charities, giving to reputable ones you can be reasonably sure that some of it will be going to the cause you donate for (the rest to paying staff etc.)

    With the government the taxes can be spent on everything from welfare payments, funding for [insert politician here]’s pet projects you disagree with, wars, and the salary of a bloke from MI5 whose paid to read your e-mails. On balance I’d much rather give to the charity – at least if it transpires that they’re spending it in a way I don’t agree with I can stop donating without being sent to jail.

  21. @Hal – Actually “middle class” and “working class” are about how much control one has over the means of production.

  22. @ Hal,

    I think the whole class conflict framing isn’t terribly useful in this context, because very few of the people Pete B was asking about were raised to think in those terms. (Whether or not this is a sign of progress or intellectual collapse in the Labour Party is a debate I will leave to others.)

    Nonetheless, that was the question Pete asked, so that’s the question I answered.

  23. @Graham
    “If we end up next year with something like Con 295 Lab 285 LibDem 35 will Ed have ‘lost’?”

    With Clegg then able to get back into bed with the Conservatives and let them just about hang on for another 5 years, then I think the answer to that is “yes”. Ed needs to do well enough to keep the Conservatives and LDs to a total of less than 326 in order to at least claim a score draw.

  24. @Phil
    I do not believe that Clegg would have the authority to do that – too many of his MPs would revolt and simply refuse to go along with him.


    Well maybe it’s a question of scale. If I ‘give’ to govt it facilitates them to run a National Health Service, which by and large can be (and is) an effective use of resource. People with the big picture can decide (for example) that stroke care is more effective if concentrated in a very few centres of expertise. If they make a mess of it we collectively can sack the health secretary and he can sack anybody in the service. OK we can’t technically sack him for up to 5 years but if there’s a big enough stink he’ll be pushed.
    I might have a different view about overseas aid because there’s not much effective pressure on UK gov to spend it where it’s needed.
    But the real clincher is your comment about jail: I want everybody to give according to their means and I want the other b*ggers to go to jail if they don’t. OK, I don’t think that happens as effectively as I’d like but most people pay and I’d redouble efforts to get them all paying.

  26. @Jay Wiser

    Exactly. Leaving the less well-off dependent on the personal approval of their richer peers simply reinforces existing social hierarchies because it forces groups lower down the pecking order to conform to the moral standards of the wealthy. That’s why the relatively impersonal nature of the State that many on the right attack is A Good Thing from my point of view, as it is less likely to make moral judgements about individuals who are heavily dependent on it, and is less likely to remove aid on a whim. Dependency is an inevitable part of being human, and I’d much prefer people to be dependent on impersonal public authority than capricious, judgemental private authority that would leave them in a much more vulnerable position.


    Exactly. Very eloquently put

  28. I’m not a rich man but I have enough for a comfortable (in my terms) lifestyle. I have enough (the l includes my family) because I worked 60 plus hours a week for 40 years and was prudent with my money. Rather than spend my income as I received it I invested in income producing assets. Anyone who calls this unearned income is talking through their nether regions. I have a lot of time for people who are more driven than me because they employ large numbers of people and improve the lot of their employees. I have no time for those who expect something for nothing although I would see no-one starve or be without shelter. I will always vote for a party that supports those who aspire to greater things rather than one that penalised the successful or wants to reward the indolent at the expense of the hard working. I believe that all should be treated equally regardless of creed, colour or sexual orientation. I dislike greed but I despise envy. If you think about it you will know how I vote.

  29. New thread.

  30. @RMJ1

    I’m amazed that you would consider working 60 hours a week at the expense of quality time with your family to be some sort of virtue that we should all applaud you for. That amounts to about 40,000 hours over your working life that could have been spent doing something else.

    When you talk of ‘aspiration to greater things’ it’s clear that all you’re thinking about is material gains. So yes, it is clear who you vote for and your materialistic attitude represents everything I want to fight against

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