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. @Ben Foley – Blair commentating critically on Miliband’s stance on Syria could actively help Labour, as it emphasises that Labour have rejected Blair’s approach to war. As ever, these things are insufficiently tangible for us to measure them.

  2. England out

  3. Actually seeing Blair and Mandelson blethering on makes me more convinced Ed M was the right choice

  4. Re. England v UK team, I’m not sure there’s much of a link between population and football success. Uruguay, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary and Czechoslovakia have all made it to the World Cup finals with population sizes a fraction of England’s.

  5. @ Alec

    £2k rebate off NIC.

  6. RogerH,

    Meanwhile nobody is mentioning the Chinese, Indian or Indonesian teams!

  7. The latest TNS-BMRB poll gives Labour 35%, Tories 29%. UKIP, 23%, Lib-Dems 6%.Must be a new low for LibDems.

  8. Didn’t know TNS were still polling!

    No, LDs have had 6% fairly recently although not with TNS. Bad for Cons, excellent for UKIP, alright for Labour.

  9. “Colin, there’s something wrong with my computer… is this what you said?
    “An intriguing approach to the financing of investment banking , a profession it would seem , with cash available in inverse proportion to talent……………..”


    Nice one. In footballing parlance I’d say that’s Wit United 3 Humour-bypass Rovers 0.

    Off to watch the French v Swiss game.

  10. @ Norbold
    For one awful moment I thought you meant the Test Match.

  11. Conservatives still managing to score frequent 20s = bad news for Cameron.

  12. The latest TNS-BMRB poll gives Labour 35%, Tories 29%. UKIP, 23%, Lib-Dems 6%.Must be a new low for LibDems.

    UKIP/Tory crossover any time soon?

  13. @ Ewen,

    You make a fair point and I stand very much corrected, although I still contend that the Oakeshott exodus was a symptom of the Lib Dems’ problems rather than a cause of it. (And like Tim Farron I think it’s a great pity, and hope Lord Oakeshott can rejoin his party at some point, if only because it would keep him away from Labour.)

    I doubt we can be rid of Lord Mandelson so easily.

    And it’s worth pointing out that as frustrating as his intervention on Newsnight may have been- and make no mistake, I am deeply, deeply frustrated that he appears to have given no thought whatsoever to the reasons New Labour lost five million voters in thirteen years, a good four million of them under the sainted Tony, and why an election campaign he ran returned a result that in percentage terms was scarcely better than Michael Foot’s- unlike Oakeshott Mandelson has a record of some truly grueling service to his party during some truly ugly periods. And to whatever extent he contributed to that ugliness, I think he, like Oakeshott, is more a symptom than the disease. Like everyone else in the party he was let down very badly by poor leadership from Kinnock and Blair, it’s just that in Mandelson’s case it manifested not as helpless invisibility but as the Prince of Darkness.

    So I think we should try to forgive his trespasses if we can. If Miliband wins it won’t matter, and if Miliband loses, we have an argument to win and we should feel confident enough to make it against serious opponents instead of hoping they all leave the party and flee to New York City.

  14. Averaging the Labour VI over all 25 polls recorded on the panel to the right gives VI of 35.4 all consistent with being within MoE and VI unchanged from 35.4
    Similarly Tories 31.4 but with one low of 25 outside the range.
    Results to change that will have to differ drastically from all those reported recently.

  15. I’ll continue to stick to my prediction. Labour will limp over the line next year with a very small majority.

    Do agree any Blair criticism for Miliband is likely to be a boost!!! Who would have that back in 97?

    My local news are really peddling this newsnight story too.

  16. @Spearmint

    Nay, nay and thrice nay.
    I wasn’t close enough to noo Lab to apportion the blame but Mandelson looked to me to be somewhere in the room reading the master plan whenever a crime was committed.
    The performance on Newsnight was simply unforgiveable.
    Win or lose, I don’t want him messing up the Lab party and if he has any prominence I will resign.

  17. Guymonde,

    Don’t you dare. The rest of us will need every hand on deck to get the bugger out.


    Sorry-missed your amusing post.

    re :” investment banking , a profession it would seem , with cash available in inverse proportion to talent.”

    Absolutely-which is why it is losing jobs at a huge rate. Only a few weeks ago Barclays announced that they will get rid of 7,000 investment bankers.

    …..England’s so called international footballers on the other hand will just come home & carry on taking wads of cash from the punters.

  19. @ Guymonde,

    Oh, he wasn’t just in the room, he was usually the guy holding the gun.

    I just think the left have often been too fixated on the hitman to ask who was giving the orders. For a long time there was this tone of “If only the Tsar knew!” especially around Blair that I found absolutely sickening, especially when it came from people like Tony Benn who you’d think would be able to recognise a power structure when they saw one. And anyone who came in to rescue the party in the 80s and then came back to rescue Brown deserves some credit for that, however much we may dislike their politics.

    I also think that the extent to which a party can tolerate loyal dissent is a measure of its calibre. The Lib Dems have let themselves down very badly with their treatment of Oakeshott, and I’d hate to see Labour do the same. Miliband has made it fairly clear he won’t give a Mandelson a job and that’s only proper- people who have been profoundly unhelpful in opposition should not be rewarded in government- but there’s a difference between that and drumming someone out of the party.

  20. Half time in the footy and I’m still drooling over that third French goal. Football at its sublime best; defending a corner, ball cleared, four passes the length of the pitch and ball in the back of the opposition net – all inside about 10 seconds. Magnifique from Les Bleus!

    Great win also for the Rapids in the T20 Blast tonight. Routed the Birmingham Bears (????) by 8 wickets and we stand on top of the league. It’s slap and giggle cricket, I know, and a travesty of the proper game, but a win against the Bears has got to celebrated, hasn’t it?

    What with that TNS-BRMB poll, it’s starting to look like a rather nice weekend! :-).

  21. If Ed Milliband looks like an Open University lecturer as one poster says they have no idea of what they are talking about. First a majority are women and secondly they LOOK like most other people. Having been one (male) since the University was founded I am amazed that someone who reads this report is suggesting that Open University staff are , by implication, inferior. Our university , by far the largest in Britain at 250, 000 students, has done so much to provide world wide accepted degrees.that historians one after another have praised it as a giant step , not disimilar to the NHS.They have praised it as one of the greatest institutions of the C20th. Copied by many “standard” UK universities, and many in other countries. Have a look at the league tables for teaching and research and the OU is always near the top. Quite often above Oxbridge. Where has that poster been living ???

  22. Looks like another evening of the Great Labour Schism then.

    Makes a well known global sectarian punch up seem like a playground tiff.

    Chris Lane-they’re being nasty about Mr Blair & Mr Mandelson again.


  23. @ Colin,

    We can’t be handing out free owls all the time, you know. Austerity and so on.


    You could do an austerity owl to demonstrate Ed’s fiscal prudence.

    An Owl for the Many-not just the Few , as Gordon might have said.

    Could be a vote winner.

  25. colin Jackson

    If this

    “If Ed Milliband looks like an Open University lecturer as one poster says …… ”

    leads to this >>>>>>>>>>

    “Having been one since the University was founded I am amazed that someone who reads this report is suggesting that Open University staff are , by implication, inferior….”

    then I must surely have understood your point.

    What is it?

  26. I am no longer fully satsfied with “poldrums” much as I admire its coinage and allusion to the long dying of the mighty winds of ocean. I see the persistent slow movement of the Labour VI as more like the long winter journey through the infinite oceans of the mighty sperm whale, reaching at last the mythic north of the chilled but sunlit bays of the social contract and full employment, where it will spawn its great and far reaching policies, before setting off again on its mighty and unstopping journey (if that’s what sperm whales do.)

  27. Bit liverish this evening Paul?

    That friendly , welcoming , style for which you are so well known is to be preferred.

    Do me a favour Paul-try posting that with the gaps filled in & see if it makes it through -lol.

  28. The Guardian’s raft of articles on why Ed is Carp are earning the ire of their readers in the comments, which is funny. I do wonder if the Guardian has yet realised that its endorsement is a poisoned chalice? Ask John Kerry…

  29. We wer doing fine until our physio was brutally attacked by the Italian bench.

    [Well, till he fell over anyway.]

  30. Col

    Oh do tell all.

    Wojjer fink I said?

  31. @ John Pilgrim,

    Loling forever.

    Oh to have you do the election night commentary when Dimbleby retires…

  32. Not just any old owls..

    British owls for British hard-working families

  33. Wes – 3:51 pm
    “The Lib Dems might feel some relief at a 5-point gap between them and the Greens”
    … No, not on today’s TNS-BMRB either. While they dont give a figure for the Greens, they do give enough data so it is clear with the LDs on 6% that the Greens are vastly more likely to be 2% behind LDs in that poll than 5%.

  34. Owls might go down well with voters in Sheffield Hallam, Penistone and Stocksbridge and Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough. Unfortunately they might anger Central, Heeley and South East, so it’s a trade off that might have to be made (since Labour can’t be seen to be handing out blades).

    That, gentlemen and ladies, was a football joke.

  35. JP

    Drunk hour starts at midders mate.

  36. wot, no poll tweet?

  37. robin

    no poll

    c’est le weekend

  38. Duh. Thought it was a Thursday.

  39. @Spearmint – Did you read Mandelson’s book, The Third Man? It was really excellent I thought.

  40. @ Mr nameless
    “That, gentlemen and ladies, was a football joke.”

    Congrats on working owls & knives into yr routine.

    A worse footie joke.

    [Oldnat spotted by Telegraph in Brazil.]

    “England may be on course for their worst performance at a World Cup in history, but for one Scottish fan their 2-1 defeat to Uruguay could not have been any more enjoyable.
    Wearing a tartan hat with tufts of orange hair and brandishing the Saltire, the mystery Scot caused an outcry after being pictured celebrating wildly with South American supporters.”

    [Outcry = journalese for incoherent tweets by drunk English footie fan.]

    For excellent foto see

  41. @John Pilgrim

    I love the maritime allusion, although I’m worried about the possibility of the whale being harpooned by ruthless Pressman whalers as the noble oceanic beast continues its epic journey. Accordingly, my view is that it should surface only at the very last minute, some time in early May next year. :-)

    Great French performance tonight and I wonder if the beleaguered Francois Hollande is starting to dream about accompanying a victorious Les Bleus team down the Champs D’Elysee in front of a million celebrating Parisians in mid July? What a wonderful V-sign that would be to Marie Le Pen as the multi-racial French team took their bow. Giant images of Blaise Matuidi, Patrice Evra, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko beamed on to the Arc de Triomphe, perhaps? Shades of Zizou in 1998. Rainbow Warriors truly representative of a modern France.

    Allez Les Bleus!

  42. Good Evening All, after some nice Chess.

    I think that poll looks very unreliable.

    I spotted the Blair attacks. Maybe VI will be affected.

  43. I am only just catching up on the Secretary General of NATO statement that he thinks Russia is supporting anti- fracking groups in Europe. That could be a good way for the Greens to swell their election war-chest.


    Well, at least you got the hemisphere right. Didn’t see the game though, as I was waiting at hospital for my son to come out of surgery after an accident at work.

  45. OLDNAT

    Hope your son is OK

  46. @OLDNAT

    Hope it is nothing serious and that he will soon be OK.

  47. Thanks.

    Surgeon seemed pleased with the op, but I’ll be child minding for the next 4 weeks, as he’s going to pretty immobile.

  48. Why are you looking after the surgeon’s children when your son’s not well old nat?

  49. BFIELD
    “I am only just catching up on the Secretary General of NATO statement that he thinks Russia is supporting anti- fracking groups in Europe. That could be a good way for the Greens to swell their election war-chest.”

    It could also be the finish of the Greens in this country if it becomes widely known. I could never understand why they wanted us to be dependent on unfriendly countries for our fuel. Now I do.

  50. The Mandelson/Blair controversy has got me thinking about something that has mystified me for years. This isn’t a wind-up, I just genuinely don’t understand.

    Mandelson, Blair, the Milibands, Harman, Balls and many others in the modern Labour party are public school or similar, Oxbridge or similar, wealthy by most standards, and middle class by most standards (even if they pretend otherwise). Why then do they lead a party that at least purports to redistribute wealth, to prioritise the poor over the rich etc?

    I can think of a few reasons ranging from cynical to idealistic, but I’d be most interested to hear Labour insiders views on the matter.

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