Lord Ashcroft has released a second tranche of polls in Con-v-Lab ultramarginals, full details are here. It’s a repeat of his first polling of Con-Lab seats in April and now as then, Ashcroft polled the 12 most marginal Conservative held seats with Labour in second place, plus two other seats (South Thanet and Great Yarmouth) that he thought might have interesting UKIP results. Note that this wasn’t what we’ve often called a “marginal poll” in the past (a single poll of a group of marginal seats), it was 14 separate polls, one in each seat, individually sampled and weighted.

In April, the average swing in the 12 Con-Lab ultra marginals was 5.5% from Con to Lab, the same as in the national polls at the time. In other words, Con-Lab ultra-marginals were behaving right in line with national polling.

The average picture in the national polls is unchanged since April – the national swing from Con to Lab in GB polls conducted during the time Ashcroft did his latest fieldwork was 5.4% from Con to Lab. Lord Ashcroft’s findings in the marginal polls however have shown a slight weakening in the Labour position relative to the Conservatives, looking at just the 12 ultra-marginal seats the Conservatives are down by about 1.5% on average, Labour down by about 2.7%, UKIP up by about 4.5%. This looks like a European boost – the previous poll was done before the European election campaign, this one started in mid-June. The average swing in the ultra-marginals is now 4.9 from Con to Lab, meaning an increase in UKIP support has slightly hurt Labour. While the difference is too small to really make a fuss about, it also means that Ashcroft’s polls now show a slightly smaller swing in Con held marginals than nationally – in line with what we’d expect given the normal incumbency effect.

In two of the seats polled, Thanet South and Thurrock, UKIP were ahead in voting intentions, which will be enormous help for them in convincing voters they are a viable general election vote in the local area.

307 Responses to “Ashcroft poll of ultra-marginals”

1 2 3 7
  1. As I’ve said on some individual constituency threads, there is likely to be quite a bit of random sample variation. The overall picture isn’t bad for Labour and the seats which look least straightforward on the basis of local election results & other local circumstances are confirmed as such to some extent here; I’m a little surprised about the relative closeness of Amber Valley & would be interested to see what future polls of that constituency say. In general though I still feel that the sheer weight of evidence in national polls tends to make them more reliable than constituency ones which tend to be much less frequent.

  2. To rehash and add to my comment from the previous thread, it’s a pity that Ashcroft is still only polling the ultra-marginals[1]. Partly this is because they are not where the election will be won, but also because this batch are skewed towards UKIP-friendly seats, even excluding the two extras.

    Now part of this is because UKIP’s best chances are in such seats, which are easiest for them to win with a low percentage, as they do here in Thanet South[2] (33%) and Thurrock (36%). But it also happens to be a set of seats where the UKIP get 21% (23% before the specific constituency question[3]), higher than the 15% his weekly polls averaged over this period.

    I’m not convinced that the high(er) UKIP ratings here are a ‘European boost’, because we saw very little of that in any of the national polls, except perhaps in the week immediately the results. We don’t have Ashcroft weekly polling for most of the relevant Spring period but what there is seems to be at the same level as after. I suspect local factors may have been a bigger influence (such as local government gains in Thurrock) or it may be that targeting work is having an effect.

    This latest Ashcroft poll also pours cold water on those relying on certain magic spells to bring voters back to the Conservatives. The poll does find a very slight increase since the Spring in those who think the economy[3] will do well. However the biggest increase is among those voting Labour; while the UKIP voters, who are supposed to lured back, are not just the most pessimistic overall but becoming more so. Better times may actually turn people towards Labour.

    As for Scary Ed, preferring Cameron may be widespread, but it doesn’t seem to help much with UKIP. Only 17% are satisfied with him – but so are 16% of Labour voters. And 25% of UKIP actually prefer Ed to Dave – so squeezing them may get people moving in the ‘wrong’ direction.

    [1] This time Ashcroft only polled the twelve Conservative-held ultra-marginals, (but not the twelve Labour-held ones) plus the same two extra UKIP-friendly seats (Thanet South and Great Yarmouth) as before. These two are 115 and 74 on Labour’s target list according to Anthony, so Labour not gaining them in this poll isn’t as shocking as it might appear.

    [2] The Thanet South poll was only taken recently, so the ex-UKIP Tory candidate doesn’t seem to have dented their vote there.

    [3] Incidentally I think that Ashcroft is wrong in just using the general Thinking specifically about your own constituency and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency at the next general election? rather than naming likely candidates. I can see the technical difficulties and it probably doesn’t make much difference in these seats, though it would be interesting to see the effect in for example North Warks, but it will in the Lib Dem ones where people may vote more for the person that the Party.

    [4] Ashcroft asks about “Britain’s economy – including things like jobs, wages, prices, taxes and interest rates” which is quite useful phrasing, I think.

  3. The reaction to the Ashcroft poll of marginals has been bizarre. It’s somehow spun as bad news for labour, when in 8 out of these 14 held tory marginals, the labour lead is 8% or more…8% is typically 4,000 votes or so (1% i take to be equivalent to about 500 votes in most seats)…

    people seem to forget that all these seats are currently tory held. Ashcroft’s poll is suggesting that the tories will be lucky to hold 1 of these seats- Great Yarmouth, which is no. 74 on labour’s target list…

    In two of the seats, UKIP are ahead…I don’t see how UKIP gaining seats off Tory incumbents is a bad outcome for labour. It would be interesting to see if UKIP are in poll position in any labour held marginals.

    If I were a Tory election strategist I’d be very worried, but we’re still being told, “Ed doesn’t cut it”… DC is more “prime ministerial” etc….

  4. Imo the key to these marginals is the content of the UKIP manifesto. I am not suggesting for one minute that voters will read the manifesto, but if it contains similar policies to that in 2010 then Lab should have an easy job of persuading LOC voters to desert UKIP. In this scenario the Lab share should increase with the Con share remaining stable.

  5. @ Peter,

    I think the Tories- not to mention their allies in the press and a substantial subset of the upper echelons of the Labour Party- are starting to swallow their own propaganda a bit.

    Ed Miliband can’t be Prime Minister, therefore the public must be moving toward electing a Tory majority, therefore this poll must be bad for Labour. They’ve working backward from their preferred conclusion rather than trying to extrapolate forward.

    Although like I said in the other thread, I think I does indicate Labour have a GreenKip problem (albeit not a fatal one).

  6. There is a gap in the market for an economically left-wing, socially conservative party. It would be very crafty of UKIP to try to fill it. It’s for that reason I think they won’t do so.

  7. Er, that last comment was directed at Peter Crawford.

    In other news, new TBS-BMRB poll:

    LAB 36% (+1)
    CON 29% (nc)
    UKIP 19% (-4)
    LD 7% (+1)

    Labour are having a rather good week, although I think it has more to do with the selection of pollsters than with any improvement in their position.

  8. By which of course I mean TNS-BMRB. Curse you and your typos, Mike Smithson!

    Tabs are here: http://www.tnsglobal.com/sites/default/files/whitepaper/TNSUK_VotingIntentions2014July22.pdf

  9. That latest poll looks bad for Labour.

  10. Anthony Wells (fpt)

    I think North Warks highlights the troubles it would face at this time. It’s not a fair question to ask would you vote for

    John Bloggs the Labour candidate
    Some Conservative candidate they haven’t picked yet
    Jane Smith the Lib Dem candidate
    Bob Jones the UKIP candidate

    Just doesn’t really work until all the candidates are in place

    Or in this case (because it was polled in June) putting in the name of a candidate (the MP) who is no longer standing (and according to AndyJS[1] neither Lib Dem or UKIP have a candidate in place). Hence by the reference to ‘technical difficulties’. But would putting the ex-MP, Mike O’Brien’s name in help Labour or not? Does a new MP standing down play against their Party? It would interesting to know and would give an indication of what opinion was at the moment, which is all polls can do in the end.

    [1] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0At91c3wX1Wu5dFkzTjFrRmJRN3F6ODBTTEs4NGFhcUE#gid=0

  11. just chatting to various politicos and some ex-blairites, i am amazed at how many labour people just don’t want ed miliband to win.

  12. I also think that the 5th year of a government is difficult…people just end up getting bored. that’s why maggie and blair, in their pomp, always went to the country after 4 years….

    The danger for the governing parties is that the govt. can look like a stand-up comic, or a vaudeville act, which has just gone on a bit too long. The audience just can’t wait for it to end, and to watch something new. I think a bit of that may creep in, and you won’t see the kind of swing back that you used to see in the 80s parliaments which lasted 4 years.

    I used to subscribe to the consensus view that the election would be even stevens, with possibly the tories marginally ahead in Vote Share, but with fewer seats…I am beginning to edge towards a slim labour majority…the last 2 months of polls have been very poor for the tories, if they intend to be re-elected.

  13. @ AW

    “While the difference is too small to really make a fuss about”

    Do we have an MOE on these types of polls? Larger sample overall than a standard national opinion poll must help but there must be more problems getting it right- especially if the sample size for individual constituencies are each only the equivalent of a standard national poll.

    My gut feeling from Ashcroft marginal polling done over the parliament is one is better for the Tories than UNS, then one is better for Labour and so on. I don’t get the feeling from the write ups and top line figures so far that the marginals are on average behaving differently to UNS and one that looks better for one party may just be MOE.

  14. Thurrock, Thanet and Great Yarmouth will get the headlines ( but in all cases they are currently Tory held seats ) but the most worrying for Labour is the surprisingly narrow margins in Stockton and Amber Valley.
    Overall though, not bad for Labour and no real comfort for the Tories – I wish Ashcroft would poll further down the Tory margianls not just the top 12 plus Thanet and Yarmouth.

  15. Looks like Selina Scott’s going to stand at the next GE, be an interesting sideshow.

  16. @PC
    Governments usually plan for 4 years and keep the 5th year in hand for if things don’t go to plan – then they just wait for something to turn up. Despite knowinng the date of the election since 2010 this government seems to me to have done the same. I’m not sure what effect this will have on the result of the election, but a government doing nothing except electioneering for 12 months sound like a bad idea per se.

    A very good evening to you.
    I am not sure that Tony Blair was ever in his pomp.
    I think he was and is quite a humble, self effacing man, just wanting to serve the people, which helps to explain his strong electoral performances.

  18. “..he was and is quite a humble, self effacing man, just wanting to serve the people”

    I do love your ironic interventions.

  19. Bantams 6.39 pm

    Why’s that?

  20. “Looks like Selina Scott’s going to stand at the next GE”

    Is that an all woman shortlist then? As opposed to an all women one, which many – especially conservatives – disapprove of?

  21. A few things to worry the tories:

    the poll movements away from them

    the unravelling of Free Schools today, basically as soon as Gove went

    the report revealing the unfair sanctions on jobseekers

    the far from anti-immigrant Government review of EU labour movement

    Russian sanctions vs Tory fundraising from Russians; and

    the polls, again.

  22. peter crawford

    just chatting to various politicos and some ex-blairites, i am amazed at how many labour people just don’t want ed miliband to win.

    Well all that actually tells you is that many “politicos and some ex-blairites… just don’t want ed miliband to win”. That we knew already. Whether many Labour voters feel the same way is another matter.

    It’s actually a bit of a mystery why these people continue to loathe Miliband so much. It’s not like he had reintroduced Clause 4 or was planning to confiscate all holiday homes in Tuscany. He’s more or less as much a creature of the Westminster Bubble as the rest of them. But there is this visceral hatred for him – usually from people who wanted his brother, at whom most of the same ‘criticisms’ could just as easily be directed.

  23. NICK P.
    Good to be able to spice up voting intention and polling discussions with what passes as wit.
    It comes from good schooling.

  24. CL45

    “Good to be able to spice up voting intention and polling discussions with what passes as wit.”

    Go on then.

  25. Anyone have an explanation as to why the swings in Lancaster & Fleetwood and Morecambe & Lunesdale are so different? L&F has a swing of 7.5% and M&L a 2% swing. This is a replication of the results back in April. Its not UKIP as they are doing the same in both constituencies.

  26. @Stan

    Doesn’t Lancaster have a big student population?

  27. @Stan

    The Green vote in Lancaster is much bigger than Morecambe too.

    That is also a hint to the different demographics.

  28. Yes L&F includes University ward, the only ward in the country with no permanent population – all students.

  29. I can you tell that their are plenty of Blairites who don’t want EM to win. There are plenty of these and various associates lined up by NI to undermine the Labour campaign next year. Remember we backed Blair and we will be telling people why they cannot back Miliband.

    On a wider note, I don’t think much was ever going to change in the height of summer. Come conference season the electorate will begin to focus on their decision next May.

  30. @Alec

    “That latest poll looks bad for Labour.”

    Utterly disastrous, I’d say.


  31. @NickP

    “the unravelling of Free Schools today, basically as soon as Gove went”

    What unravelling? I can’t see anything in the news.

  32. I am firmly of the view people should ignore any media telling who they should or shouldn’t back.

    Not only should ignore, but they probably actually do ignore.

    People can make their mind up on their own.

  33. @ Roger Mexico,

    I thought your post the other day was very astute. If Miliband can win from the centre-left, then both New Labour’s lurch to the right and the tactics used to achieve it are retrospectively proved unnecessary. No one wants to discover the sacrifices they made were in vain, and no one wants to face the accusation that they led the party down a blind alley. Psychologically, the Blairites have a lot invested in the idea that Miliband can’t win.

    Plus a lot of them are still in the midst of a five-year temper tantrum because they didn’t get their way in the leadership election.

  34. pman

    “we will be telling people why they cannot back Miliband.”


  35. (And to be fair, the are substantial ideological differences between Milibands. Every time I imagine a universe in which Labour got stuck with the other one, my skin crawls, so I can’t really blame the Peter Mandelsons of the world for feeling the same way about this one.

    H0dges is a nutter though.)

  36. missis minty


    On the other paw one does get the absolute inside story on everything ………………..

  37. As far as I can see, the Ashcroft marginals polling displays the certainty of a Labour victory, as things stand, and if an election was held now. I do hope he keeps it going, but earnestly wish he would just keep a few of the very marginal ones and extend his range to ones which are ‘neck and neck’ or ‘close’ even after a 5.4% swing.

  38. @Spearmint

    No, the things that are needed for Labour to win in 2015 are not the same as the things that Labour thought it needed to do to win in 1994.

    If Labour win under EM it won’t invalidate the election win of 1997, any more than the Tories winning under DC invalidated the election win in 1979.

  39. “we will be telling people why they cannot back Miliband.”
    That’s an easy one… They can’t back Miliband unless they are registered to vote in Doncaster.

  40. @Pressman

    “We will be telling people why they cannot back Miliband”

    And presumably that’ll be because if they do it’ll be the last time that your Australian master will have the ability to tell a significant chunk of the UK electorate what they can and cannot do.

  41. ‘It would be interesting to see if UKIP are in poll position in any labour held marginals.’

    I believe there was recent internal Labour research that showed Ukip standing to take 12 seats from Labour based upon the local council results.

    If one bears in mind that the Ashcroft research was primarily about Con Lab marginals (with an add on of 2 juicy Ukip targets)
    it is not by any means a summation of the Ukip threat/promise to The Tories.

    Ukip have their own target list of 25 I believe based upon the local council results. Although in my own area I could see one seat that was not on the list of 25 but still gave Ukip the highest number of votes. So the target of 25 may be palces where they not only got more votes in the locals but by a significant enough majority to counteract any swingback that may occur.

    Anyway that’s about the order of things 25 targets of which I would predict taking 12 based upon… informed guesswork. They will be unlikely to get all the seats they push for nor will they imo fail to win any seats as has been widely asserted on this site amongst others.

    The really interesting thing will be whether those 12 ish seats end up holding the balance of power… and that is anybody’s guess.

  42. @Peter Crawford

    You must move in rarified metropolitan circles then. In this locality within the urban West Midlands I know of no politically active colleague on the left willing to admit to having been a supporter of Blair, nor of anyone willing to put in a good word for Blair now.

  43. Phil as I said the other day its a massive election for the media in all forms.

    What I know is that no modern election has been won by the perceived worst PM of the big two and that we’ve always backed the winner. To get Cameron back in heading up another coalition is the very minimum expectation. To secure the majority may take an AP McCoy effort to lift the blues over that line.

  44. @TheSheep

    any more than the Tories winning under DC invalidated the election win in 1979.

    Er, they didn’t.

  45. @Pressman

    “There are plenty of these and various associates lined up by NI to undermine the Labour campaign next year.”

    I suspect that it benefits Miliband to be criticised by old Blairites in the same way that it benefited Blair to be criticised by the Bennite wing of the party when ditching Clause IV in 1995.

    (Incidentally NI ceased to exist over a year ago.)

  46. @ The Sheep,

    I agree, and I think there is a case to be made that Miliband can say and do what he says and does now precisely because he is standing on a foundation laid down by New Labour. (I’m not convinced by that case, but I can see the argument.)

    That doesn’t seem to be the view held by the Blairites, however. Mandelson and Peter Kellner seem to believe only New Labour can win in 2015.

  47. Absolutely correct, Roger. No-one cares what people like Charles Clarke, Peter Mandelson or, least of all, what Tony Blair thinks any more. They’re criticism of Ed can only do him good, so bring it on…please.

  48. Their not they’re. Aaaaarrgghh!!!!

  49. @Spearmint

    “If Miliband can win from the centre-left, then both New Labour’s lurch to the right and the tactics used to achieve it are retrospectively proved unnecessary.”

    I think there’s a lot of truth in that. There’s little doubt, for example, that John Smith would have won in 1997.

  50. @ Pressman,

    What I know is that no modern election has been won by the perceived worst PM of the big two

    Er, 1979? Or do we date the start of the modern era from the day when ole Rupe bought the Times?

1 2 3 7